Center for Biological Diversity
Court Rejects Bush Administration Attempt to Delay
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2006
San Francisco, Calif. – Following an earlier March 6th ruling finding the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) in violation of its obligations under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, District Court Judge William Alsup yesterday rejected further government delay and ordered the DOE to come into compliance with the Act within 2 years. The Energy Policy Act (“Act”), passed in the wake of the first Gulf War, is designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil, lessen global warming and cut air pollution by mandating the purchase of alternative fuels vehicles (“AFV”s).
In the ruling earlier this month, the Court rejected a DOE finding that federal agencies cannot take action to reduce fuel use because petroleum reduction goals mandated by the Act are unachievable. Yesterday the Court further denied a government request for an additional 3 to 4 years of delay, instead ordering the DOE to revise the long-overdue petroleum reduction goal to an achievable number within one year, and in the following year to determine whether the AFV purchase rules must apply to private and municipal vehicle fleets, potentially requiring the purchase of tens of thousands of additional AFVs.
“Urgent action is needed to reduce our dependence on oil, cut pollution, and address the impacts of global warming, which threatens our health, environment and future prosperity,” said Peter Galvin, Conservation Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are pleased the Court has ordered an end to the Bush administration’s foot-dragging on converting federal and private vehicle fleets to more fuel efficient and less polluting vehicles.”
“The DOE has been stonewalling progress on alternative fuel vehicles for years,” said Danielle Fugere, Global Warming Director for Bluewater Network. Yesterday’s ruling follows a similar ruling in response to a lawsuit filed in 2000 by the Center for Biological Diversity and Bluewater Network. In that earlier case, the DOE was ordered by Judge Alsup to develop a legal plan for compliance with the alternative fuel vehicle purchasing mandates. The DOE was brought back into court in 2005 by these same groups after failing for a second time to comply with its obligations under the Act.
In passing the Act, Congress intended to replace 30 percent of petroleum vehicle fuel use with alternative fuels by 2010, through federal purchase of less polluting vehicles, and by harnessing the purchasing power of the federal government to spur the market for natural gas, propane, ethanol and electric vehicles, which produce less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The Act requires all federal agencies with light duty fleet vehicles in major metropolitan areas to acquire at least 75 percent AFVs each year instead of traditional petroleum-fueled cars and trucks. The federal government has over 600,000 vehicles, the largest fleet in the nation. In November 2005, settlement of the purchasing component of the lawsuit was reached with the Departments of Commerce, Labor, Transportation and Veterans Administration, which admitted violations and agreed to increase their current AFV acquisitions (46, 3, 29, and 24 percent, respectively) up to the required 75 percent.
Air pollution from petroleum fueled vehicles causes numerous harmful effects to human health, including respiratory problems, heart and lung diseases, and premature death. Motor vehicles emit several hazardous pollutants that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as known or probable human carcinogens. For example, more than 90 percent of Californians live in regions adversely affected by air quality problems, largely as a result of vehicle exhaust. Long-term exposure to air pollution in four San Francisco Bay Area counties may cause an additional 208 cases of cancer for every million residents, mostly attributable to benzene and butadiene, byproducts of petroleum fuel combustion.
Conventional petroleum fueled vehicles release greenhouse gas pollution which causes global warming. Global average air temperatures have already increased by over 1° F and are projected to rise between 2.5 and 10.5° F or more by the end of this century, an unprecedented magnitude and speed of change. Other changes caused by greenhouse gas pollution and global warming include increasing numbers of droughts and floods, increasing weather variability and more intense storms, the melting of sea ice and glaciers, and sea level rise. The U.S. is responsible for approximately 25 percent of the total world oil consumption, with approximately 65 percent of that amount used for transportation. Overall, the U.S. also produces nearly one quarter of the world’s total greenhouse gases.
Global warming severely threatens the world’s biodiversity. Half of all species studied have already experienced profound changes in the timing of lifecycles, range, or population numbers from the 1° F global average temperature increase that has already occurred. Global warming is already responsible for one of the largest vertebrate extinction events of the last 100 years, the extinction of 67% of 110 species of the Monteverde harlequin frog group in Central and South America. In this instance, the amphibian extinctions were caused by the chytrid fungus, a disease which exploded as global warming created ideal conditions for its growth. The leading study on the quantification of extinction risk, published in the world’s leading journal Nature in 2004, predicts that 35% of about 1,100 species studied will be committed to extinction by the year 2050 if current levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue. Many species could be saved if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Cuts of 80% are needed from industrialized nations in order to stabilize atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, and ultimately stabilize the climate system.
For more information about the Act, global warming, and the benefits of alternative fuel vehicles, visit http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/policy/energy/index.html.