Industries sue to void California’s low-carbon fuel regulations

Trade associations for the oil, chemical and trucking industries filed suit in federal court in Fresno on Tuesday to void California’s first-in-the-nation low-carbon fuel initiative.

The regulations, which took effect last month, are aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline and diesel sold in the nation’s largest transportation market by 10%, and spurring the development of alternative fuels and technology.

But the lawsuit portrays the rules as discriminating “against transportation fuels and fuel feed stocks imported from outside of California with the intended effect of promoting in-state production of transportation fuels and keeping consumer dollars local . . . “

Thus, it contends, the rules are an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce.

Low-carbon fuel is a key element of California’s effort to curb the state’s global warming emissions. More than a dozen states and the federal government are also considering low-carbon fuel initiatives.

Mary D. Nichols, chairwoman of the state’s Air Resources Board, called the lawsuit “shameful,” adding that the carbon standard will “help us break our dependence on fossil fuels. It will protect us from volatile oil prices. . . . Instead of fighting us in court, they should be working to provide consumers with the next generation of cleaner fuels.”

Under the rules, air board engineers compare the amount of greenhouse gas produced by fuels from numerous sources. They assign a high carbon content to Canadian fuel extracted from tar sands, an energy-intensive process. And they attribute a high content to Midwestern ethanol produced from corn, calculating that planting corn for energy would displace crops and result in emissions from land-use changes.

Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Assn., which filed suit along with the American Trucking Assns., said that displacing those fuels “would . . . increase our reliance on energy from less stable parts of the world, and weaken our national security.”

In December, the ethanol industry also filed suit against the regulations using similar arguments.