Progress on the Road to a Regional Clean Fuels Standard

Apr 25, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Image courtesy of @ flickr.

New Englanders are driving and emitting more pollution every day. Emissions from New England’s transportation sector – the fastest growing emissions sector — produce about 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the region, more than half of which comes from passenger cars. This is a problem for New England’s people, environment and economy.

That is why CLF has been working hard with a coalition of environmental advocacy organizations to support the creation of a Clean Fuels Standard (CFS) in eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. A successful CFS would achieve several mutually reinforcing goals:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector through the promotion of alternative fuels (such as electricity, advanced biofuels, and natural gas);
  • Drive regional economic growth; and
  • Ensure energy security and insulate residents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states from rising oil prices.

This week, the CFS advocacy coalition – comprised of CLF, PennFuture, Environment Northeast, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environment America, and Ceres – welcomed good news regarding litigation in California over the CA Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to stay sought by the State of California and its co-appellants (including CLF, who is a party to the CA litigation). This decision blocked the injunction granted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, which prevented CA from enforcing its LCFS regulations while the appeal was pending.

In real terms, as a result of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, the LCFS will be alive and well in CA while the Appeals Court considers the merits of the case – a significant victory for California, CLF, and the other appellants, and a positive step toward combating climate change in the transportation sector.

CLF and its partners also made important strides this week toward promoting a regional CFS by standing up against threats from the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), a trade association comprised of fossil fuel interests and affiliated with organizations like the American Petroleum Institute. CEA (along with the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Trucking Associations, and the Center for North American Energy Security), is an opposing party in the California litigation described above.

Earlier this month, the CEA contacted Attorneys General in all of the states participating in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic CFS program, spreading misinformation about the California litigation and threatening to lodge a similar battle against a CFS program in our region. CLF and its allies responded strongly with a response letter to the Attorneys General, making clear that CEA severely mischaracterized the direction of the CA litigation and its implications for the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region. In fact, the CA litigation is not a predictor of the legality of fuel standards still under development in other locations, and resource-specific regional differences between the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region and California undercut CEA’s claims. The Massachusetts version of the letter to the Attorneys General is available here.

CLF believes that a regional CFS is a crucial means of significantly reducing the region’s dependence on oil, transportation costs, and greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time providing consumers more choices. CLF will continue to work with allies to ensure that the CFS program progresses in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

The (oil) empire strikes back

Jun 14, 2010 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

While the oil continues to gush out of the wounded well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico a group is gathered here in Boston today to try to head off development of an important tool that would help move us away from oil.  In fact, these folks want us to shift to an even dirtier fuel that requires even more energy to extract than oil and has a whole different set of bad side effects for the public health and the environment.

The group in question is the Consumer Energy Alliance an infamous “astroturf” group that acts as a public face for the oil industry.  The fuel they are promoting, working with certain elements of Canadian provincial government, is oil produced by a messy and fuel intensive process from a gooey mixture of sand, clay, water and a tar-like substance called bitumen known as “oil sands” or “tar sands.”

And the policy they are opposing is the Low Carbon Fuel Standard – a reasonable policy that would gradually reduce the “carbon content” of the fuels that power our vehicles, helping to make the transition to cleaner fuels like clean bio-fuels and electricity from renewable sources.

The oil industry does not like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard because it is a tool for finally beginning the process of phasing out their enormously profitable product as the sole fuel for our transportation sector.  And the folks in the business of squeezing oil out of sand REALLY don’t like this standard because their product is really ghastly from a global warming perspective – putting at least 3 to 4 times as much global warming pollution into the atmosphere than conventional oil.   And just as the citizens and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico suffer from continuing harm from oil production there is pollution that threatens the public health and environmental damage associated with production of this “unconventional oil” from tar sands.

A consortium of Northeastern States are working on moving the Low Carbon Fuel Standard forward.   The governors and environmental agencies of New England need to hear from their citizens that this a positive path forward and they will be hailed and supported for moving forward towards climate protection and away from dirty and dangerous oil.

New England led the way on clean cars; finally, the rest of the country follows

Apr 2, 2010 by  | Bio |  3 Comment »

The average American spends 2 ½ hours a day in the car. That’s about 73,000 hours in a lifetime—and tons of havoc wreaked on the environment. The transportation sector is the fastest growing single source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country, which pollute the air and contribute to global warming.

Tackling this challenge means both reducing the amount of driving by smarter development and building transit and reducing the pollution pouring out of each car. Four out of five of the New England states did the next best thing—reduced the amount that cars would be allowed to pollute in the first place.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration adopted those regulations nationwide, unveiling the first-ever federal clean cars standard that will limit the maximum level of GHGs that can be emitted by new cars and trucks. The new laws are expected to cut GHG emissions from new cars by 34 percent between models made in 2009 and those made in 2016—a change equivalent to taking 21.4 million of today’s cars off the road.

This decision is a major victory for CLF. When it comes to clean cars, we’ve been here since the beginning. For two decades CLF has fought for stronger limits on tailpipe emissions from cars.

Early national tailpipe emissions and fuel efficiency standards adopted in the 1960s and 70s improved the fuel economy of the average American vehicle from 13 miles per gallon in 1975 to 22.6 mpg in 1987 and began the process of reducing pollution from cars. Over the course of the 1980’s and 1990’s CLF worked in New England to ensure that our states in partnership with California would lead the nation in a journey towards lower emissions cars.

That journey took a new and interesting path in 2002 when the state of California adopted the Pavley standards, also known as the California Clean Car Standards, which set stringent emission standards for global warming pollutants  from cars.

CLF participated in the California process, urging that the standards be written in a manner that would allow them to be implemented in our states.  Once the standards were in place CLF then, working with allies in many states, launched a largely successful effort to get the standards adopted in the New England states.

It wasn’t easy. The automakers fought back by suing in both California and in New England. CLF served as “local counsel” to a coalition of environmental groups as we all worked with the states to achieved victory in two landmark cases in Vermont and Rhode Island in 2008, forcing automakers to comply with state emissions regulations and in effect implementing the “clean cars program” in every New England state except New Hampshire.

The momentum from the legal victories in Vermont and Rhode Island, as well as the parallel victory our allies achieved in court in California, provided key fuel for the effort that led to the adoption of those state standards on the national level.

But the work’s not done. Today, CLF is focused on pushing hard for the adoption and implementation of a Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to gradually lower the carbon content of fuel. In 2008, CLF successfully worked with the governors of 11 northeast and mid-Atlantic states as they formulated and signed an agreement in which they pledged to develop an LCFS in the future.

CLF also continues to aggressively protect the right of the states to develop a statewide LCFS, and deter opponents who could threaten the longevity of those standards. CLF served as a third party legal counsel on behalf of the state of California in federal litigation challenging the state’s precedent-setting LCFS. Lastly, CLF is forcefully engaging with congressional staff, senators and representatives to fend off federal legislation that would thwart the ability of the states to continue to lead the LCFS effort and the next generation of car standards.

President Obama’s adoption of the California standards nationwide, ending a longtime battle between states and automakers, demonstrated to us at CLF that what happens here in New England really can serve as a model for other states, and that states have the power to create momentum for sweeping change that can influence policy on the federal level. CLF is proud that New England continues to lead the nation in taking action to identify and solve environmental problems and will continue to fight to ensure the states have, and use, the tools to provide a powerful model for national action.

CLF in the News:

New Federal Car Emissions Standards Hailed in Maine, Anne Mostue, MPBN
White House Follows Vermont’s Lead on Clean Cars, Paul Burns,