SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 18 California's pioneering
efforts to combat global climate change got a big boost on
Wednesday from a federal appeals court, which upheld a state
program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for transportation
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the central
argument by fuel producers and allies that California was
violating a constitutional rule against impeding interstate
commerce with its low-carbon fuel standard, laying the
groundwork for a potential Supreme Court fight.
The standard requires reductions in carbon emissions for
fuels, to be measured throughout the lifecycle - including
production and transportation as well as ultimate use.
Out-of-state fuel producers argue that it discriminates against
their products, favoring California-produced fuels, which are
not transported as far.
A federal judge in Fresno ruled last year that the
low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) was unconstitutional under the
Commerce Clause for that reason. State air regulators appealed,
and were backed by the appeals court.
"We will not, at the outset, block California from
developing this innovative, nondiscriminatory regulation to
impede global warming," read the majority opinion in the
"The Commerce Clause does not protect Plaintiffs' ability to
make others pay for the hidden harms of their products merely
because those products are shipped across state lines," it said.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States
Petroleum Association, said the group was disappointed in the
"While we were not a party to the litigation, we have been
very vocal in our view that the LCFS is proving to be an
infeasible and extremely costly regulation," she said in a
The plaintiffs include farmers growing crops to make
ethanol, the California Dairy Campaign, the Renewable Fuels
Association, and a fuel and petrochemical association.
California regulators say the standard is a crucial
component in its effort to roll back emissions to 1990 levels by
2020. Transportation accounts for about 40 percent of the
state's output of heat-trapping gases.
"This is a resounding win for the environment," said Tim
O'Connor, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, who believes
the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Ninth Circuit did not state an opinion as to whether
California's regulations are preempted by federal law, and sent
the case back to the Fresno federal court for more litigation on
a variety of legal issues.
The state was granted a stay on the now-vacated injunction,
allowing it to continue implementing the LCFS program.
In the Ninth Circuit's dissenting opinion, Judge Mary
Murguia said the LCFS does discriminate against interstate
commerce and that California failed to demonstrate that it could
not reduce greenhouse gases through a "nondiscriminatory version
of the regulation."
The appellate court case is Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v.
Richard W. Corey, No. 12-15131, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit.