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Federal Judge rules California Low Carbon Fuel Standard violates Commerce Clause of US Constitution

Federal District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, Eastern District of California, ruled on Thursday that the State of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program is in violation of the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution and issued an injunction prohibiting its enforcement. (Earlier post.) The LCFS intends to reduce, on a full-fuel lifecycle basis, the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels (measured in gCO2e/MJ) used in California by an average of 10% by the year 2020. (Earlier post.)

The Court found that the LCFS discriminates against out-of-state corn-derived ethanol and impermissibly regulates extraterritorial conduct. Judge O’Neill also ruled that California Air Resources Board (ARB) failed to establish that there are no alternative methods to advance its goals of reducing GHG emissions to combat global warming.

Supremacy and Commerce clauses
The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Paragraph 2) establishes the Constitution, Federal Statutes, and treaties as “the supreme Law of the Land”, mandating that state judges be bound by them, even if state constitutions or laws conflict.
The Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) gives Congress the power to regulate commerce “with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. The application of the Interstate Commerce Clause has been wrangled over in court since the early 1800s.

The ruling allows ARB to appeal Judge O’Neill’s decision immediately to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. RFA and Growth Energy said they will defend the Judge’s decision that the LCFS is unconstitutional in any appeal that may be filed by ARB.

Earlier in December, after the ARB voted to introduce some changes to the LCFS to streamline procedures and clarify language (earlier post), Chairman Mary D. Nichols noted that:

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is an essential part of California’s program to move away from dirty fuels and toward a clean energy future. These changes streamline the program. They ensure that we accurately account for every gram of carbon released during the extraction and transportation of unrefined fossil fuels, no matter where they come from.

In 2009, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and Growth Energy filed a complaint in Federal District Court in Fresno, California, challenging the constitutionality of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The two organizations argued that, as structured, the LCFS violates both the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.

They asserted that the LCFS violated the Commerce Clause by seeking to regulate farming and ethanol production practices in other states. The Commerce Clause specifically forbids state laws that discriminate against out-of-state goods and that regulate out-of-state conduct. With its original filing, the groups noted:

The LCFS imposes excessive burdens on the entire domestic ethanol industry while providing no benefit to Californians. In fact, in disadvantaging low-carbon, domestic ethanol, the LCFS denies the people of California a genuine opportunity to clean their air, create jobs, and strengthen their economic and national security. One state cannot dictate policy for all the others, yet that is precisely what California has aimed to do through a poorly conceived and, frankly, unconstitutional LCFS.

In 2010, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) also filed a legal challenge to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) with the US District Court, Eastern District of California, Fresno Division, echoing the complaints of the ethanol groups. NPRA was joined in the suit by the American Trucking Associations (ATA); the Center for North American Energy Security, an organization dedicated to the development of oil sands, oil shale and other unconventional resources in North America; and the Consumer Energy Alliance, an organization advocating, among other things, more access to offshore and onshore oil & natural gas.

Comments

Roy_H

This is absolutely ridiculous! The laws are to prevent discrimination of local producers vs out of state producers. ARB is not trying to promote California produced ethanol vs out of state ethanol.

If this court decision is upheld, then there is no point to any state trying to reduce its pollution or control any product it decides is undesirable. It forces this to be only federal.

ejj

I don't really understand this either...any state, or local law could be interpreted as impacting someone out-of-state (outside local jurisdiction) that wants to do business in the state (or inside the local jurisdiction).

kelly


"The Court found that the LCFS discriminates against out-of-state corn-derived ethanol and..,(the) frankly, unconstitutional LCFS."

So, a state's attempts to clean the air pollution murdering it's citizens is unconstitutional, BUT:

"... (It's) the Patriot Act that began the legislative assault on the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment right to freedom of association was gutted as federal officials were authorized to prosecute citizens for alleged association with "undesirable groups."

The Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was compromised by permitting indefinite detentions of those suspected of "terrorism."

The Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy was obliterated as unchecked surveillance was authorized to access personal records, financial dealings, and medical records of any citizen at any time without any judicial oversight or permission. Evidence obtained extra-judicially could be withheld from defense attorneys."

IS Constitutional??

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-garrison/obamas-most-fateful-decis_b_1143005.html

ALL the tens of millions of American's we've trained to kill with our tax dollars need to recall that their oath of enlistment is "..to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;" - without a time limit.

"..that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." expires when discharged and out of the military uniform.

HarveyD

Good news. Some 60 older USA coal fired power stations do NOT meet 1970 (Nickson's) standards and should be closed or up graded in 2012.

D

About time that the CARBites were restrained by someone. Their wild flights of legally unathorized fancy are costing everyone dearly.

Reel$$

From what seems to be the case, the ruling is correct in noting California wants to regulate the production methods of out of state ethanol. It's not their business. And is precisely what the Commerce Clause is meant to avoid, i.e. one group (State)of people imposing their values on another.

If California wants to regulate the type of ethanol sold in its State, maybe they should consider a variable tax. Californians pay a higher tax on "unfavored" ethanol because Californians think it less politically correct. Thus, leaving the choice to the people (and blenders) to choose.

Further, as the CI metric is based on (gCO2e/MJ)- this provides an opportunity to question the entire EPA CO2 is a pollutant "finding." One of the most laughable "findings" in all of human history.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2qVNK6zFgE

kelly

http://www.scientificamerican.com/topic.cfm?id=global-warming-and-climate-change

Most scientists don't seem to be laughing about CO2, present or future.

ai_vin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca1A2Uw8ask
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g093lhtpEFo

HarveyD

It is amazing what one can make the Constitution say!

HarveyD

But it is not surprising when 7 out of 9 potential (R) Presidential candidates do not believe in evolution. Is this representative of the average (R) voters?

ai_vin

Looks like it. Want to know why the GOP field is so weak? You can read this;
http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/08/opinion/carville-gop-field/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

but what it boils down to is GOP candidates must not pass the “Murdoch Primaries.”; http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2011/knowless/

ai_vin

Oops. That should read - GOP candidates must now pass the “Murdoch Primaries.”;

ai_vin

Here's something; http://inhabitat.com/romney-vs-santorum-whoever-wins-the-environment-loses/

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