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 January 06, 2009
Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States to Develop Low Carbon Fuel Standard

 Green Car Congress - Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states will cooperate to develop a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).  The 11 states-the 10 members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) plus Pennsylvania-will work together to create an emissions-performance standard that will eventually provide incentives for energy providers to use lower-carbon fuels.

In June, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick sent a letter to the governors of all 10 RGGI states inviting them to work with Massachusetts on developing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard that would apply to the entire region, creating a larger market for cleaner fuels, reducing emissions associated with global climate change, and supporting the development of clean energy technologies.

Last week, the heads of environmental protection agencies and, in some cases, energy agencies, in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont signed a Letter of Intent to tackle the challenge of reducing greenhouse gases from fuels in a joint effort.

Climate change is the issue of our time and once again states are leading the way in the absence of federal action. By taking steps to reduce the amount of carbon in fuels, we can lay the groundwork for progress in the fight against global warming. The success of RGGI shows these states can work together to make change happen.

-New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis

The regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) initiative envisions the creation of a market-based, technologically neutral policy to address the carbon content of fuels. In addition to covering vehicle fuels, a low-carbon standard potentially could apply to fuel used for indoor heating, industrial processes and electricity generation.

In the transportation sector, such a standard could potentially encourage the use of electric-powered vehicles and biofuels that have a lower-carbon footprint than traditional fuels, based on a full life cycle analysis. The effort will discourage the use of biofuels that are likely to cause negative impacts such as crop diversion and land-use changes.

The Letter of Intent notes that the interconnected nature of fuel distribution in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions favors a regional approach to a LCFS. The LCFS effort is also a natural outgrowth of RGGI, a program that covers carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. The 10 RGGI states already have enacted regulations that cap CO2 emissions in the power sector and held two auctions of pollution allowances in 2008 as part of the first market-based, mandatory cap-and-trade program in the US.

The Letter of Intent also commits the 11 signatory states to drafting a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the development of a regional low carbon fuel standard program, to be forwarded for consideration by the governors of the states by 31 December 2009, or as soon thereafter as possible.

The 11 states will collaborate with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), which is conducting a study of a LCFS for the region. NESCAUM is an association of 8 Northeast states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The states also agree to work cooperatively with other states and the federal government, and to seek to influence the design of any federal LCFS or other proposed fuels policy.

The state of California was the first to commit to a LCFS for motor vehicles, which it is now in the process of developing.  The Regional LCFS Letter of Intent is available here.

By: Mike Millikin