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District Court Enjoins New California Low Carbon Fuel Standard

By Robyn Hagan Cain on January 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal judge in California barred the state from moving forward with cleaner fuel requirements last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill in Fresno ruled on Friday that the low-carbon fuel rule violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution because it favors California-produced biofuels over crude oil and biofuels produced outside California, reports The Washington Post.

Judge O'Neill granted ethanol producers' request for a preliminary injunction against the rule because it "unconstitutionally discriminates against out-of-state producers and tries to regulate activities that take place entirely outside state boundaries, from producers' choice of farming methods to refiners' use of coal-fired electricity," according to The New York Times.

The California Air Resources Board's (ARB) low carbon fuel standard regulation became effective April 2010. The low carbon fuel standard was created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in California by at least 10 percent by 2020. Carbon intensity (CI) is a measure of the GHG emissions associated with the various production, distribution, and use steps in the lifecycle of a transportation fuel.

The ARB plans to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the ARB will likely claim that the district court erred in finding that the low carbon fuel standard violates the commerce clause because the Clean Air Act gives California special authority to regulate air pollution, and insulates the state from interstate commerce clause violation claims.

The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the California Dairy Campaign, and the Renewable Fuels Associations filed a similar lawsuit opposing the low cardon fuel standard in 2009, claiming the regulation was at odds with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and "would close California's borders to corn ethanol made in other states," according to the Post.

For updates on the low carbon fuel standard appeal, add FindLaw's California Case Law blog to your RSS Feed.

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