White House Thumbs Its Nose At Law Designed to Wean the Nation from Petroleum

Environmental groups ask a judge to find agencies in contempt of court


Jay Tutchton, Earthjustice, 303-871-6034 cell 303-916-8949


John McManus, Earthjustice, 510-550-6707


Julie Teel, Center for Biological Diversity, 303-229-2203


Russell Long, Bluewater Network, 415-544-0790 ex 18

At the same time it sought a vote on oil drilling in Alaska and opted for another war in the Middle East, the Bush administration has decided it is simply too difficult to try to save gas at home. The administration is refusing to implement an energy conservation law, designed by the first President Bush, to increase the use of alternative fuel vehicles. In response three conservation groups have sought a contempt of court order from a federal judge that could land officials in jail.

The Bush administration has announced it need not implement a key federal law designed to decrease the nation’s reliance on oil-based motor fuels reasoning that nothing will reduce America’s gasoline use, so why bother trying. The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) signed into law in 1992 after the first Gulf War by the original President Bush, aimed to reduce American demand for transportation oil fuels 10 percent by the year 2000 and 30 percent by 2010. EPAct envisioned that these significant oil savings could be achieved through the buying power of the federal government, which maintains a fleet of 600,000 vehicles. The act requires federal agencies with light duty fleet vehicles in major metropolitan areas to gradually convert their fleets to alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) from traditional petroleum-fueled cars and light trucks. EPAct further provides that if federal purchasing alone seemed unlikely to attain the 30 percent oil fuel reduction by 2010, the federal government should require large private fleets, as well as local governments, to similarly convert their fleets to AFVs. These private and municipal fleets total another 750,000 vehicles.

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Bluewater Network, and Sierra Club, Earthjustice sued to force compliance with EPAct in January of 2002. Last July Federal District Court Judge William Alsup found that nearly every cabinet level agency in the U.S. Government had violated the Act by failing to buy or lease the legally required percentages of AFVs for its fleets. The judge also ordered the government to prepare overdue reports of its non-compliance and to make these reports available to the public over the Internet by January 31, 2003. In these compliance reports every federal agency was required to submit a plan specifying how and when it would come into compliance with EPAct. Unfortunately, most of the federal agencies have disregarded their court-ordered duty by submitting non-committal, unsubstantiated reports or no reports at all. Today, responding to this neglect of the court’s order, the conservation groups filed a motion asking the court to hold the federal defendants in contempt and force them to comply fully with the reporting requirements.

Not only has the federal government failed to acquire AFVs for its fleets, admit its failures to the public, and plan to change its ways, but it also has refused to consider a private and municipal fleet AFV requirement because the U.S. Department of Energy has determined that any reductions in gasoline fuel this would produce couldn’t make up for how short the U.S. is in meeting the Energy Policy Act’s consumption reduction goals.

“It’s ironic that in the same week the administration pushes for a vote opening the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling, it throws in the towel on a common sense conservation program designed by the President’s father,” said Earthjustice attorney Jay Tutchton. “What this administration doesn’t seem to understand is that if we had instead starting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1992 when this law was passed, the refuge would be dry by now. Switching to alternatives from petroleum is the only long-term solution to our energy and environmental problems. More production just delays the inevitable.”

“The Bush administration has told the American people the goal of breaking the oil addiction is unattainable, therefore they need not even try to curb consumption,” said Julie Teel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “At a time when international security and environmental protection are undermined by this country’s gross dependence on oil, our government’s refusal to comply with an existing statute enacted to address these precise problems defies law and logic.”

“Mr. Bush has proven once again that he has no real interest in reducing the nation’s dependence upon foreign oil,” said Russell Long, executive director of Bluewater Network. “This is a bizarre contrast to his father, who instituted this policy in the first place.”


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