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September 24, 2015

Oil Industry Attack on Oregon’s Clean Fuels Standard Dismissed

Victory: Federal court sees value of tackling climate-changing pollution, says law not discriminatory


Patti Goldman, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext.1032

Jessica Moskovitz, Oregon Environmental Council, (503) 222-1969

Portland, OR

This afternoon, Chief Judge Ann Aiken of the United States District Court for the State of Oregon handed down a ruling that dismissed entirely oil industry groups' attempts to overturn Oregon’s Clean Fuels Standard.

With the fundamental goal of the Clean Fuels law in mind—“the purpose of the Oregon Program is to reduce GHG emissions”—the court recognized that the law would help Oregon move towards cleaner, more innovative fuels: “On its face, the Oregon Program rewards all investment in innovative fuel production, irrespective of where that innovation occurs.”

Oregon's Clean Fuels Standard reduces pollution from gas and diesel and opens the state’s fuel market to cleaner fuel options made by innovators both inside and out of Oregon. The law requires oil companies to gradually reduce carbon pollution from their gasoline and diesel fuel by 10% over ten years. Oil companies have the option to either blend lower-carbon biofuels or invest directly in electric vehicles, biogas and other clean fuels.

“Over the last year we’ve seen that oil companies will stop at nothing to take away our clean air law in order to benefit their bottom line,” said Andrea Durbin, Executive Director of Oregon Environmental Council, which intervened as a defendant in the case. “The decision today shows that we can do things the Oregon way: reward innovation, protect our clean air and communities and provide drivers with more choices in how they fuel up. Oregon’s laws will not be held hostage.”

The oil industry had argued that the clean fuels program discriminated against out-of-state fuels and violated the U.S. Constitution.  The court rejected all of these claims both because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against the same industry groups when they made similar challenges to California’s clean fuels standard and because the Oregon program regulates fuels for legitimate reasons based on their climate impacts.

The state of Oregon, joined by Oregon Environmental Council, Climate Solutions and other conservation groups and the states of California and Washington, moved to dismiss the case at the outset because it lacked merit and the district judge agreed. 

The court found that “the Oregon Program is not facially discriminatory because it distinguishes among fuels based on lifecycle GHG emissions, not origin or destination” and “Petroleum's higher carbon intensity values exist for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason,” namely its climate-changing pollution.

Patti Goldman, a managing attorney with Earthjustice who represented the Oregon conservation groups in the case, applauded the result:  “Our constitutional system encourages states to take actions to protect their people against health and environmental threats like climate change.  The industry is trying to prevent such measures and perpetuate their market share in dirty fuels.”

“Carbon pollution is changing our climate and contributing to more frequent and fiercer forest fires, drought and ocean acidification," said Kristen Sheeran, Climate Solutions’ Oregon Director.  "We need to accelerate solutions and this decision means Oregon can keep leading in transitioning from the fossil fuel economy.”

The court declined to hear oral arguments in the case.

Read the legal decision.

Oregon's Clean Fuels Standard reduces pollution from gas and diesel and opens the state's fuel market to cleaner fuel options made by innovators both inside and out of Oregon.

Photo courtesy of Michael Kappel

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