Federal Government Fails to Implement Energy Policy Act
As of 2005, 14 Federal Agencies have Failed to Purchase Required Alternative Fuel Vehicles for Public and Private Fleets
Compliance with Law Would Save Equivalent of More Than Four ANWR’s Annually
After the first Gulf War, former President George H.W. Bush declared in signing the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (“EPAct”) that this new law would “place America upon a clear path toward a more prosperous, energy efficient, environmentally sensitive, and economically secure future” by promoting the use and development of non-petroleum fuels in domestic vehicle fleets. This hope has yet to be realized because the current Bush Administration is refusing to implement the basic requirements of this forward-looking law.
The idea of EPAct is simple. The federal government will lead the way toward the use of alternative fuels by purchasing alterative fuel vehicles. The substantial purchasing power of the federal government will be harnessed to drive the market toward alternative fuels, spurring private innovation and investment in alternative fuel infrastructure to meet the federal demand. The EPAct requires all federal agencies with light duty fleet vehicles in major metropolitan areas to ensure that at least 75% of their fleet purchases each year are alterative fuel vehicles instead of traditional petroleum-fueled cars and trucks. The federal government has over 600,000 vehicles, the largest fleet in the nation.
EPAct sets target percentages for the purchase of alterative fuel vehicles by all federal agencies that maintain vehicle fleets. If federal purchasing alone proves insufficient to drive the market for alterative fuel vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is required to expand the alterative fuel vehicle purchasing program to qualifying private and municipal fleets to meet EPAct’s goal of moving 30% of this nation’s vehicle fleet to alterative fuel vehicles by 2010. Congress also instructed the DOE to revise this 30% goal if it appears unrealistic. DOE is required to expand the program to private and municipal fleets if “necessary” to meet the 30% goal or a revised goal.
The Center and Bluewater Network filed a lawsuit in federal court in April 2005 against 14 federal agencies for their continuing failure to implement the EPAct, by not purchasing the legally required percentages of alternative fuel vehicles for their federal vehicle fleets. Principal among the defendants is the DOE, the very agency charged with enforcing the EPAct. Nearly every agency in the Cabinet and the newly created Department of Homeland Security are also in violation of the EPAct. The lawsuit also seeks compliance with EPAct purchasing requirements of alterative fuel vehicles for private and local municipal government fleets if needed to meet petroleum fuel reduction goals.
By refusing to require alternative fueled vehicles in their fleet, these agencies are raising the risks of cancer, stroke, and asthma for millions of Americans, increasing global warming and air pollution, and keeping the nation addicted to fossil fuels from politically unstable foreign nations. If the Bush administration would comply with the Energy Policy Act, the U.S. could annually save more than four times as much fuel each year that oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge would provide.
Alternative fueled vehicles are powered by natural gas, propane, ethanol, or electricity, which produce less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum fueled vehicles. To this end, each federal agency was directed by EPAct to purchase a mandated percentage of alterative fuel vehicles and report its purchases to Congress and the public to ensure compliance. If federal purchasing alone proved insufficient to spur the market, the EPAct required the DOE to undertake a staged rulemaking process to determine whether or not alternative fuel vehicle fleet requirements must also be applied to private and local municipal government fleets, which it has not done. Instead of extending EPAct’s alterative fuel vehicle purchasing requirements to private and municipal fleets, DOE announced a “Catch 22” ruling declaring it would neither revise the Act’s 30% goal to a more realistic target nor apply the alterative fuel vehicle purchasing requirements to private and municipal fleets because even if it did so it would still fail to meet the Act’s original 30% goal. In doing so, DOE violated both the Energy Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
The lawsuit challenges the DOE’s failure to mandate the purchase reporting of alterative fuel vehicles by such fleets. The lawsuit follows a suit filed by the Center, Bluewater and Sierra Club in 2000, for which a federal court ruled in 2002 that the federal government had failed to purchase sufficient alterative fuel vehicles or disclose whether they had acquired the required numbers of alterative fuel vehicles.
Emissions from petroleum fueled vehicles contain greenhouse gases linked to climate change. There remains no credible scientific dispute that global warming is occurring and accelerating due to human production of greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels: In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change concluded that the global rise in average yearly temperature over the last 50 years was primarily attributable to human causes. The U.S. is responsible for approximately 25% of the total world oil consumption. Approximately 65% of the oil used in the U.S. each year is used for transportation. Accordingly, the U.S. produces approximately 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases, one quarter of which are due to transportation related activities. Climate change worldwide and in the U. S. is expected to severely impact imperiled wildlife and reduce biodiversity by altering the distribution and abundance of many species, resulting in hastened population extinctions. For example, the Center recently petitioned for listing of the polar bear (link to polar bear page) under the Endangered Species Act, in part because of the detrimental effects of global warming on habitat for this species.
Air pollution from vehicles is also linked with numerous harmful effects on human health, including respiratory problems, heart and lung diseases, and premature death. Motor vehicles emit numerous hazardous pollutants that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as known or probable human carcinogens. In California, for example, over 90% of the population lives in regions adversely affected by air quality problems, largely as a result of vehicle exhaust. Long-term exposure to air pollution in the 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.
Displacing petroleum with alternative transportation fuels will reduce U.S. dependence on imported petroleum and vulnerability to foreign oil import disruptions, decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, pollutants and toxics, and promote domestic economic development. Implementation of the EPAct would also reduce the need for oil exploration and development in sensitive wildlife areas such as the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
The federal agencies being sued for failing to purchase required alternative fuel vehicles and disclose their purchase compliance include the U. S. Departments of Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security; as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Office of the President, the Federal Communications Commission, and the General Services Administration.