Court Rejects Attempt to Delay Alt-Fuel Vehicles Purchase Plan for Federal and Private Fleets
SAN FRANCISCO – Following an earlier ruling March 6 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 on March 30 rejected further government delay and ordered the DOE to finally come into compliance with the Act within two years, by mandating a plan for significant federal purchases of alternative fuels vehicles (AFVs), according to the Environmental News Network. In 2002 and 2005, Judge Alsup declared the Bush administration and more than a dozen federal agencies in violation of the Act, a law designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil, lessen global warming, and cut air pollution. The Court rejected a Bush administration rulemaking that federal agencies cannot take action because petroleum-reduction goals mandated by the Act are unachievable and denied a request for an additional four years of delay. It instead ordered the DOE to revise the petroleum-reduction goal to an achievable number within one year, and then make a new determination whether the AFVs purchase rules must apply to private and municipal vehicle fleets to help achieve the goal, potentially requiring the purchase of hundreds of thousands of additional AFVs , according to the Environmental News Network report. The ruling follows an almost identical ruling in 2002, in which the DOE was ordered by Judge Alsup to develop a legal plan for compliance with the alternative-fuel vehicle-purchasing mandates, in response to lawsuit filed in 2000 by the Center for Biological Diversity and Bluewater Network. 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 after the first Gulf War, 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 more than 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 AFVs acquisitions (46, 3, 29, and 24 percent, respectively) up to the required 75 percent, according to the Environmental News Network report.