President Trump’s efforts to change California’s longstanding, but stringent low carbon fuel standards could get even tougher. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday unanimously upheld the state’s 2015 low carbon fuel standard requiring fuel producers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The court’s decision comes after state officials recently amended the standard to mandate a 20 percent reduction by 2030 in the carbon output of fuels used for transportation in California. The court had rejected a similar challenge last year, while on Friday said that California had attempted to address a vitally important environmental issue. The court added that California can seek to reduce the harms caused by fuels sold within its borders, regardless of where it was produced.
Fuel producers' counterclaims
Fuel and corn-ethanol producers have been arguing that the standard discriminates against some producers, and also claim that it discriminates against out-of-state crude oil and ethanol, and thus violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Opponents also claimed federal government regulation should prevent California from setting its own standards.
Last year, the Trump administration began efforts to revoke California’s authority to regulate automobile greenhouse gas emissions -- including its mandate for electric-car sales -- in a proposed revision of Obama-era standards, Bloomberg reported at the time. Trump’s proposal would also stop federal rules to boost fuel efficiency into the next decade. Instead, it would cap federal fuel economy requirements at the 2020 level, which under federal law must be at least a 35-mile-per-gallon fleet average, rather than letting them rise to roughly 50 mpg by 2025 as envisioned in the Obama plan, according to reports. Related: What’s Holding Back The Global Energy Transition
The EPA is claiming that California's right (and the small group of other states that have adopted similar standards) to its decades' long emission laws raises the costs for automakers that have to comply with different standards in different states. The agency is seeking what it calls a “50 state solution.” California for its part has the highest car ownership in the country and the worst air pollution from these automobiles as well as from coal-burning power plants. The state has eight of 10 most polluted cities in the country, according to the American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report. The Los Angeles/Long Beach area took the distinction of being the nation's most ozone-polluted city as it has for nearly the entire 19-year history of the report. California has done more than any other state to counteract air pollution, the Lung Association said.
Undoing Obama’s legacy
Many see Trump’s attempt to change California's tough emissions laws as an overall attempt to undo all of former President Barack Obama’s regulatory programs to curb emissions that contribute to climate change, some of which were put in place toward the end of the Obama administration just before Trump took office. In just his first year in office, Trump tried to undo as many as 70 environmental laws, claims a Washinton Post article.
Anti-environmental claims do seem to have merit across the board, though Obama can arguably be described at the most anti-oil industry and ultra pro-environmental president in recent U.S. history. The court's California decision on Friday came just two days after acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler defended the Trump Administration's proposal to scale back tailpipe emissions standards and held out hope for an agreement with California on a national program that would make compliance less costly for automakers.
By Tim Daiss for Oilprice.com
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