Progress on the Road to a Regional Clean Fuels Standard

Jenny Rushlow

Image courtesy of epSos.de @ 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.

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