Battle Over Fuel Prices Coming to the Northeast

“On the East Coast, advocates of cleaner fuels are preparing to renew their fight” – Politico

Consumers across the country today are enjoying economic advantages and increased energy security thanks to North American energy abundance.  As the New York Times reports, even as unrest continues to unfold in oil-producing regions of the world, Americans are being shielded from price shocks and seeing more stable prices at the pump, thanks to the North American energy boom.

Nevertheless, proponents of oil rationing schemes from the West Coast to the Northeast are moving forward with policies that will put a halt to these benefits. While Secure Our Fuels has extensively documented activists’ efforts on the West Coast to impose a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), news outlets are beginning to report of renewed efforts to do the same in the Northeast.

According to a September 15 EnergyWire article titled “Top enviro official says Mass. is ‘moving forward’ on clean fuels policies for Northeast,” the effort is already well underway. The article states:

Massachusetts is looking to lead the way on clean fuels policies for the Northeast that would likely start with a carbon-content tracking tool for the transportation sector, a top environmental regulator said last week. David Cash, a commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, was asked in an interview to address a letter sent recently by 15 environmental groups urging Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to get tough on fuels that originate from oil sands production. Citing a 2009 memorandum of understanding (MOU) on regional clean fuels that was spearheaded by Patrick, the letter argued that the Democrat had failed to live up to that memo’s promise and sought to up the political ante on the issue. At the time, the memo effectively set the stage for the region to look at the kind of low-carbon fuel standard now in place in California…

…Cash said he essentially agrees with the groups that New England needs to identify and track the carbon content of fuels entering its market from out of state and out of the country. He said Massachusetts is already hard at work developing such a system “to keep a close eye on transportation,” the leading source of greenhouse gases in the region. “We’ve been moving forward with the idea they have in that letter for a while now,” he said.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D), too, has announced his support for a similar approach. In a May 27, 2014 letter responding to several of the same groups, Governor Shumlin directed the state’s Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Conservation to:

  • Investigate, in consultation with the Public Service Department, the feasibility of developing a Vermont carbon intensity tracking system for fossil fuels imported into the state;
  • Simultaneously reach out to the other states in our region to discuss the possibility of developing a regional carbon intensity tracking program; and
  • Support the Northeast States for Coordinated Air use Management continued analysis and reporting of regional fuel carbon intensity to its member’s states.

The Governors in Vermont and Massachusetts are responding to a series of letters led by the Conservation Law Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council. These letters also received additional support from 350.org, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Biological Diversity.

These groups are not shy about their renewed campaign. Jennifer Rushlow, a staff attorney for Conservation Law Foundation, told PoliticoPro, “There’s a movement afoot in New England to take control of this issue because things are about to get very out of control with tar sands coming into our fuel supply.”

The NRDC for its part released a report earlier this year, stating, “State leaders, with the support of citizens and local communities, need to take action now to implement policies that will clean up transportation. The first step is tracking tar sands fuel and the carbon intensity of the gasoline and diesel that power cars and trucks. But above all, it is imperative for state leaders to enact policies that prevent the influx of carbon intensive tar sands fuels.”

Of course, anti-fossil fuel activists are aggressively ramping up their efforts in the Northeast thanks largely to access to millions of dollars from national donors. National groups like 350.org (Bill McKibben’s group), Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and NextGenClimate (Tom Steyer’s group) are flooding the region with money and organizational support as part of a broader assault on carbon.

While certainly better funded this time around, these groups will continue to face an uphill battle implementing policies designed to choke America’s growing energy development. Stable gas prices, increased energy security and thousands of good paying jobs are at risk. Secure Our Fuels will once again put the spotlight on the infeasibility of these programs and provide the facts about the devastating economic impacts these policies would have on consumers.

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