In a settlement agreement filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, the US Departments of Commerce, Labor, Transportation, and the Veterans Administration admitted to violating the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) in their continued failure to make required purchases of Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs) and agreed to bring themselves into compliance with the law.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Bluewater Network, a division of Friends of the Earth, filed suit against 14 federal agencies earlier this year for their continuing failure to implement the EPAct.
Every year since 1999, EPAct has required that 75% of new light duty vehicles acquired for federal fleets must be AFVs, but those agencies have consistently fallen short of the mandate.
Principal defendants in the suit were the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Executive Office of the President; the Federal Communications Commission; and the General Services Administration.
Since the suit, nine of the federal agencies have met the law’s requirements or taken action to meet them, and the Central Intelligence Agency still hasn’t fully reported its vehicle purchases.
The remaining four that just settled—Commerce, Labor, Transportation, and the Veterans Administration—had the lowest level of compliance. In fiscal year 2004, those agencies acquired only 46%, 3%, 29%, and 24% AFVs respectively.
The settlement, a “work-out” plan designed to move these agencies into compliance with the law, will result in the purchase of about 5,000 new AFVs by the federal government.
Federal Judge William Alsup had earlier ruled in the case this year that the Central Intelligence Agency was in violation of the EPAct for its failure to meet the Act’s requirement that agencies produce annual reports of their compliance with the AFV purchasing mandate.
Passed in 1992 after the first Gulf War, the goal of the Energy Policy Act was to harness the purchasing power of the federal government with its 600,000-vehicle fleet to accelerate the replacement of U.S. transportation-related petroleum consumption with alternative fuels.
The EPAct requires all federal agencies with light duty fleet vehicles in major metropolitan areas to acquire at least 75% AFVs each year instead of traditional petroleum-fueled cars and trucks.
EPAct-sanctioned alternative fuels include:
Methanol, ethanol, and other alcohols.
Blends of 85% or more of alcohol with gasoline.
Natural gas and liquid fuels domestically produced from natural gas.
Liquefied petroleum gas (propane).
Coal-derived liquid fuels.
Biodiesel (B100). Fleets can earn EPAct credits for use of biodiesel blends of at least 20%. This rule does not make B20 (a 20% blend of biodiesel with diesel) an alternative fuel, but gives one credit for every 450 gallons of pure biodiesel used in biodiesel blends.
P-Series fuels. P-Series fuels are a proprietary product from Pure Energy that are blends of ethanol, methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF), and pentanes plus, with butane added to blends that would be used in severe cold-weather conditions to meet engine cold start requirements. The composition of P-series fuels varies from 60–100% non-petroleum, on an energy basis, depending on the source of the pentanes-plus and n-butane components of the blends.
DOE (which is in charge of administering EPAct, its earlier non-compliance aside) can add other fuels to the list (such as the P-Series fuels) if the following three criteria are met:
The fuel is substantially nonpetroleum.
The fuel yields substantial energy security benefits.
The fuel offers substantial environmental benefits.
Hybrids do not qualify as EPAct vehicles because they still operate primarily on conventional gasoline.
(A hat-tip to Jack Rosebro!)