Ninth Circuit upholds California’s low-carbon fuel standard

January 22, 2019

Mark Schremmer


Calling the regulation “innovative” and “nondiscriminatory,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld California’s low-carbon fuel standard.

The ruling on Friday, Jan. 18, affirmed the district court’s judgment that the previous and current versions of the regulation didn’t violate the Commerce Clause.

“California should be encouraged to continue and expand its efforts to find a workable solution to lower carbon emissions, or to slow their rise,” the court wrote. “If no such solution is found, California residents and people worldwide will suffer great harm.

“We will not at the outset block California from developing this innovative, nondiscriminatory regulation to impede global warming. If the fuel standard works, encouraging the development of alternative fuels by those who would like to reach the California market, it well help ease California’s climate risks and inform other states as they attempt to confront similar challenges.”

California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which is originally based on a 2006 state law, has mandated the reduction of California’s rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

Plaintiffs in the case were the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and several other trade organizations, including the American Trucking Associations. The plaintiffs contend that all three versions of California’s low-carbon fuel standard violate the Commerce Clause by regulating extraterritorially, and by discriminating against interstate and foreign commerce.

The Ninth Circuit defended the district court’s previous ruling.

“The Commerce Clause also does not treat regulations that have upstream effects on how sellers who sell to California buyers produce their goods as being necessarily extraterritorial,” the court wrote.

“Rocky Mountain I reflects the commonplace proposition that states may regulate to minimize the in-state harm caused by products sold in-state, a central aspect of the state sovereignty protected by the Constitution.”

The three-judge panel voted unanimously.