California can finally begin forcing producers, refiners, and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce their effect on the climate following a legal victory on Wednesday.
The state began crafting its Low Carbon Fuel Standard [PDF] in 2007 — an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of fuels sold in the state by 10 percent. The carbon footprint is calculated by considering a wide array of factors, such as transportation of the fuels to gas stations and ways in which various biofuels are cultivated.
Energy interests sued, claiming out-of-state producers were put at an unfair disadvantage because importing fuel into California increased their climate impacts. And in 2011 they won — a federal judge in Fresno said the fuel standard violated the Constitution’s commerce clause. But on Wednesday that ruling was tossed out with a 2-1 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. From the L.A. Times:
The decision allows the California Air Resources Board to begin implementing the law and restores the state’s ability to punish fuel wholesalers and refineries that sell gasoline or biofuels with carbon footprints that exceed California’s guidelines.
Air Resources Board spokesman Dave Clegern called the decision “a very good step for Californians and the fight against climate change.”
In the first year of the program, wholesalers were to reduce the carbon footprint of their products 0.25%.
The regulations require producers, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel by 10% over the next decade as part of California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The appeals court found that California has every right to act to reduce carbon emissions. From the San Jose Mercury News:
“Unless and until either the United States Supreme Court or the Congress forbids it, California is entitled to proceed on the understanding that global warming is being induced by rising carbon emissions and attempt to change that trend,” wrote Judge Ronald Gould in the majority opinion. “California, if it is to have any chance to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, must be able to consider all factors that cause those emissions when it assesses alternative fuels.”
Lawyers working for environmental groups helped California defend its right to impose the standards, and they celebrated Wednesday’s ruling. Natural Resources Defense Council attorney David Pettit said the ruling would help “spur American ingenuity to produce cleaner fuels” and “reduce pollution while decreasing the state’s reliance on oil.”