Attorney says California Air Resources Board nitrogen oxide calculation is 'small snag' on path to environmentally friendly state

By John Revak | Jun 19, 2017

FRESNO — A California appeals court recently reversed a lower court ruling on a lawsuit involving the state Air Resources Board (ARB).

The lawsuit was centered on ARB’s violations of the California Environmental Quality ACT (CEQA), which occurred when it tried to implement its low carbon emission standards.

A court order had been issued outlining what the board must do to comply with CEQA and how it should go about correcting the violations. A lower court ruled that the ARB had met the compliance standards outlined in the court order and discharged the writ. This ruling was appealed and has now been reversed by the California Fifth District Court of Appeal.

The primary issue that the appellants and the appeals court found with the ARB’s attempt to comply with the court order was its method for calculating the impact that low carbon emission standards had on nitrogen oxide  (NOx) emissions.

The ARB measured fluctuations in NOx emissions starting from a baseline of 2014. The appeals court found this method of measurement to be conducive to misrepresentations of NOx emissions. The court said  2009 was the proper baseline year, which was when the ARB’s low carbon emission standards came into effect.

“ARB’s use of the wrong baseline skewed the calculation performed in the first step. The resulting error was so large that ARB did not reach the second and third steps of the analysis.” the appeals court said in its opinion.  

Although not in its favor, the ruling isn’t a calamity for the ARB, so it seems.

“The case doesn’t have any bearing on what ARB might do in the future,” David Pettit, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Northern California Record. “My guess is this is something that they can do in six months.

For this reason, the decision also isn’t a cause for concern for environmentalists like Pettit.

“We might lose a couple months of 2018 in terms of getting tougher standards,” he said.

For Pettit, the case is little more than a small snag on the road to making a more environmentally friendly state.

“It’s a bump in the road on the way to decarbonizing the transportation of fuel in California,” he said.

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