Last week the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) filed a lawsuit against California’s low-carbon fuel mandate, which calls for the state’s petroleum dependence to be reduced by 20 percent by 2020. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the standard last April. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Fresno, claims the mandate violates federal laws regarding interstate commerce and makes the cost of doing business too expensive. It is the third suit filed in the last two months challenging the mandate.
“We felt the need to challenge it because it will increase the cost of fuel produced in California,” said Rich Moskowitz, vice president of the ATA. “A new clean-diesel truck that emits virtually no particulate matter is about $100,000,” he said. “A natural gas engine adds a 40- to 80-thousand-dollar premium on top of that.”
“The LCFS would essentially ban imports to California of fuels derived from unconventional sources such as oil sands from Canada, oil shale from the Western U.S., or domestic coal supplies that can be converted into transportation fuels,” said Moskowitz. “Discouraging these fuels will simply increase costs while failing to prevent their export to and consumption by other nations.”
Charles Drevna, president of the NPRA, said the mandate is an “ineffective tool” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The legal actions undertaken by this Association and other groups today reflect the concerns a wide variety of stakeholders have with California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard,” Drevna said. “The California LCFS is unlawful for a number of reasons, including the fact that it violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by imposing undue and unconstitutional burdens on interstate commerce.
Mary Nichols, chairperson of the CARB, said in a statement:
“Their actions are shameful. This is a critical tool to help us break our dependence on fossil fuels. It will protect us from volatile oil prices and provide consumers with cleaner fuels and provide the nation with greater energy security. Our analysis shows that producing alternative fuels under this standard can save consumers as much as $11 billion over the next decade, and that’s in California alone. Instead of fighting us in court, they should be working with us to provide consumers in California and the rest of the nation with the next generation of cleaner fuels.”
Air pollution costs California over $28 billion a year, according to a 2008 study co-authored by two California State University, Fullerton economics professors. The study focused on California’s two most polluted regions, the South Coast and the San Joaquin Valley. The study found that the cost of air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley is over $1,600 per person a year. The cost in the South Coast is over $1,250 per person a year .
“These findings come at a critical juncture as lawmakers grapple with California’s commitment to protect public health in a weak economy,” said Jane V. Hall, lead author of the study. “It may be tempting to think California can’t afford to clean up, but, in fact, dirty air is like a $28 billion lead balloon on our economy.”