Current Gasoline Regulations: CA requires CARB Phase 3 gasoline throughout the state. Because of the federal RFG program, year-round oxygenated RFG was required in Los Angeles-Anaheim-Riverside, Sacramento and San Diego (this represents about 70% of gasoline sales in CA). Beginning on Dec. 10, 2002, the new San Joaquin Valley Severe ozone nonattainment area is another federal RFG area. If the gasoline was certified with the Predictive Model and not sold in these federal RFG areas, it may contain little or no oxygenates.

The Los Angeles South Coast Air Basin is a CO nonattainment area where 1.8 - 2.2 wt% oxygen content in gasoline is required from November through February. Beginning in 2003, October was dropped.

In a letter dated April 12, 1999, Governor Davis requested that EPA waive federal requirements that gasoline sold in Sacramento and southern California contain oxygen. On June 12, 2001, EPA announced that it cannot grant California's request for a waiver from the oxygenate requirement for RFG because of uncertainty about CO and VOC emissions impacts. On July 17, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated EPA's denial and remanded the matter to the Agency for a full consideration of the effects of a waiver on both the ozone and PM NAAQS. On June 2, 2005, EPA announced that it has denied the request, after conducting additional analysis to address this judicial remand. EPA found that CA had not demonstrated that the oxygen content requirement prevents or interferes with the state's efforts to achieve clean air.

On December 9, 1999, CARB adopted CaRFG3 standards effective December 31, 2002 that include changes to some of the fuel parameter flat limits, averages and cap and a revised Predictive Model. The Predictive Model was adopted in 1995 to evaluate alternative fuel specifications and addresses NOx, hydrocarbons and potency-weighted toxics. Among many changes, the CaRFG3 standards include:

  • a ban of MTBE in gasoline starting December 31, 2002 at the refinery and enforced 90 days later throughout the distribution system;
  • tighter sulfur caps and averages: a sulfur cap of 60 ppm on December 31, 2002 (enforced 90 days later throughout the distribution system) and 30 ppm on December 31, 2004 (enforced 90 days later throughout the distribution system) and a sulfur average of 15 ppm in 2003;
  • shortening the five month winter oxygenated gasoline period in the L.A. area by one month (dropping October) beginning in 2003; and
  • in order to encourage ethanol, incorporating a CO emissions reduction benefit based on relative reactivity against hydrocarbon emissions in the revised Predictive Model during the summer for gasoline with oxygen content higher than 2.0 wt% (no penalty or debit if oxygen content is lower than 2.0 wt%).

On November 16, 2000, CARB approved amendments to the California Phase 3 RFG regulations; they address denatured ethanol specifications, CARBOB provisions, and small refiner provisions. On this same date, CARB also approved changes to gasoline distillation and olefins content test methods.

On March 14, 2002, Governor Davis signed an Executive Order extending the effective date of the ban on MTBE from December 31, 2002 to December 31, 2003. On July 25, 2002, CARB implemented this revision and postponed the effective date of the CaRFG3 standards by a year. This also delayed the revised sulfur cap of 60 ppm until December 31, 2003 and 30 ppm until December 31, 2005. This does not affect the ability of a refiner to produce MTBE-free CaRFG2 or CaRFG3 prior to December 31, 2003.

On December 12, 2002, CARB approved amendments to the CaRFG3 regulations to revise the schedule for implementation of de minimis levels of MTBE standards, adding a de minimis total oxygen content standard for oxygenates other than MTBE or ethanol (prohibition would apply unless a multimedia evaluation was conducted and the CA Environmental Policy Council determined that it will not cause a significant adverse impact on public health or the environment), and a requirement to provide written documentation to retail outlets noting the absence or presence of ethanol when gasoline is delivered.

California has longer summer RVP control periods than federal regulations (federal: June 1-September 15). Depending on location, there are four periods in California: May 1-October 31, May 1-September 30, June 1-September 30, and June 1-October 31. Beginning in 2005, the summer RVP control period in southern California counties increased to April 1-October 31.

Effective September 12, 2005, CARB temporarily relaxed CaRFG3 RVP (was 6.9 or 7.0 psi until the end of October) such that the flat and cap RVP limits until the end of October were 9.0 psi. This action was in response to an EPA emergency fuel waiver to permit the early use of winter gasoline.

On October 7, 2012, CARB permitted 9.0 psi RVP gasoline through the end of October in response to several events (i.e., refinery fire, electricity interruption, pipeline contamination).

On June 14, 2007, CARB approved lowering the sulfur cap from 30 to 20 ppm (effective 12/31/11), an Alternative Emission Reduction Plan to allow a gasoline producer or importer to mitigate the excess emissions associated with permeation by obtaining emissions reductions from other sources (effective 12/31/09), adding a PM emissions offsetting compliance option, and revisions to the CA Predictive Model (e.g., to accommodate 10 vol% ethanol). The CA Office of Administrative Law approved these amendments on 8/29/08 and this approval was published in the California Regulatory Notice Register on 9/12/08. The CaRFG3 regulations do not require the use of ethanol, but there are minimum oxygen content requirements in some areas in some months.

The federal energy bill (Energy Policy Act of 2005, P.L. 109-58), signed by the President on August 8, 2005, eliminated the statutory oxygen content requirement in the federal RFG program. This was effective in CA on April 24, 2006 per an EPA rulemaking (71 FR 8965; 2/22/06).

California RFG regulations are in the California Code of Regulations Title 13, Division 3, Chapter 5, Sections 2250-2273.

California's motor fuels regulations (CA Code of Regulations Title 4, Division 9, Chapter 6, Article 5) include the latest version of ASTM D 4814 for gasoline (with an RVP exception), enforced by the CA Department of Food & Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards.

Current Diesel Regulations: California has diesel fuel regulations that are applicable for highway and off-road vehicles: 1) the federal 500 ppm sulfur cap for highway diesel was extended to off-road diesel, and 2) an aromatics cap of 10 vol% (or a CARB-approved alternative limit; 20 vol% applicable to small refiners). CARB has certified alternative diesel formulations with aromatics caps larger than 10 vol%; these may have sulfur caps <100 or <200 ppm and cetane >50.

On February 24, 2000, CARB approved a Public Transit Bus Fleet Rule and Emissions Standards for New Urban Buses. This includes a diesel fuel sulfur content cap of 15 ppm for transit agencies effective July 1, 2002.

On September 15, 2000 the South Coast Air Quality Management District (Los Angeles area) adopted a diesel sulfur content cap of 15 ppm effective 1/1/2005 to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions. See Rule 431.2. The effective date shall be extended (but no later than 6/1/2006) to match a later date if CARB adopts a statewide rule.

On July 24, 2003, CARB approved regulations that require 15 ppm sulfur cap for all highway and off-road diesel effective in the summer of 2006 without a different sulfur standard for small refiners and without a four-year phase-in. The ULSD effective dates in CA are: June 1, 2006 for refineries and import facilities; July 15, 2006 for terminals; and September 1, 2006 for retail stations. CARB also approved a diesel fuel lubricity standard that will be effective August 1, 2004 with a 90-day phase-in schedule (excluding locomotive and marine diesel) and a provision to sunset it if ASTM adopts a lubricity standard because it would be included in ASTM D 975 and enforced by the CA Department of Food & Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards. CARB postponed the effective date for this lubricity standard and the 90-day phase in would begin on January 1, 2005; this aligned the effective date in California with the effective date for the new ASTM lubricity standard (a minimum lubricity level of a maximum wear scar diameter of 520 microns based on ASTM D 6079 by the High Frequency Reciprocating Rig, HFRR).On November 24, 2004, CARB conducted a hearing on its proposed emergency rule change delaying the start of the state diesel lubricity standard by 120 days (from January 1, 2005 to May 1, 2005). On December 16, 2004, the CA Office of Administrative Law approved the amendments to section 2284, title 13, California Code of Regulations, which delay implementation of CARB's new lubricity standard for diesel for 120 days, until May 1, 2005. However, the CA diesel lubricity standard does apply beginning the 90-day phase-in on January 1, 2005 to diesel fuel that does not exceed 15 ppm sulfur.

On November 19, 2004, CARB approved the extension of state highway and nonroad diesel standards to commercial and recreational harborcraft and intrastate diesel-electric locomotives. The effective date was January 1, 2006 for harborcraft in the SCAQMD and January 1, 2007 statewide. Passenger-fleet (i.e., ferries and excursion marine vessels) marine diesel engines were already required to use CARB diesel.

In May and June 2009, CARB issued Marine Notice 2009-1, -2, -3, and -4 to advise of new sulfur content caps effective 7/1/09: 1.5% sulfur for DMA and 0.5% sulfur for DMB. Effective 7/1/12, 0.1% sulfur for DMA and DMB. CARB issued Marine Notice 2011-11 with amendments, including 1) delaying the effective date for the Phase II fuel requirements (0.1% sulfur) from 2012 to 1/1/14, and 2) 1.0% sulfur for DMA and 0.5% sulfur from DMB effective 8/1/12.

CARB's diesel regulations are at CA Code of Regulations Title 13, Division 3, Chapter 5, Sections 2281, 2282, and 2284.

California's motor fuels regulations (CA Code of Regulations Title 4, Division 9, Chapter 6, Article 5) include the latest version of ASTM D 975 for diesel (with a sulfur exception), enforced by the CA Department of Food & Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards.In letters dated February 14, 2005, the Undersecretary of the CA Department of Food and Agriculture announced that it will not enforce the ASTM diesel lubricity standard until it completes the rule making process.

Legislature: Introduced in February 2006, SB 1675 would require all diesel in CA to contain at least 2% biodiesel by 1/1/08, and at least 5% biodiesel by 1/1/10. SB 1675 was amended to require renewable diesel (instead of biodiesel) and passed the Senate on 6/1/06.

SB 140, introduced in February 2007, would require at least 2 vol% renewable diesel in all diesel fuel, effective after completing the multimedia evaluation and one year after determination that this mandate would improve or maintain the emissions reductions (including all ozone precursors, toxics, and particulates); this would increase to 5 vol% renewable diesel in another year. SB 140 was passed by the Senate on 6/6/07. Introduced in February 2007, AB 631 would require that all new fueling stations be able to provide E85 fuel, effective 1/1/10.

Amended SB 210, enrolled and sent to the Governor on 9/14/07, would direct CARB to adopt a Low Carbon Fuel Standard by 1/1/10 to achieve maximum technological feasible and cost-effective reductions in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels on a full life-cycle basis. It was vetoed by the Governor on 10/14/07 because it "could seriously hinder the development, distribution and adoption of low-carbon fuels. . . . Market mechanisms are indispensable to the implementation of the LCFS and accordingly the failure to include them in this bill is unacceptable."

Introduced in February 2008, SB 1240 would direct CARB to adopt a Low Carbon Fuel Standard to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective reductions in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels (at least a 10% reduction by 2020), accounting for greenhouse gas emissions on a full lifecycle basis. SB 1240 was passed by the Senate on 5/27/08. It was amended in the Assembly on 8/12/08 and replaced with a real estate broker bill.

Low Carbon Fuel Standard: In January 2007, California announced an initiative to establish a Low Carbon Fuel Standard for transportation fuels with a goal to reduce the carbon intensity by at least 10% by 2020. CARB developed a performance-based standard with averaging, banking and trading that is market-based, fuel-neutral, and must decrease greenhouse gas emissions measured on a lifecycle basis. CARB conducted its first workshop on 9/13/07 and CARB adopted a LCFS rule on 4/23/09. Low carbon fuels include biodiesel, renewable diesel, compressed natural gas, LNG, hydrogen, electricity, and a fuel blend containing more than 10 vol% ethanol. There are exceptions for racing fuels, interstate locomotives, ocean-going vessels, aircraft, and military tactical vehicles. Carbon intensity is a measure of the direct and indirect GHG emissions ("well-to-wheels" for fossil fuels or "seed- or field-to-wheels" for biofuels). The reductions must begin in 2011; 2010 is a reporting period. The LCFS regulations were approved by the CA Office of Administrative Law on 1/12/10 and were effective on 1/12/10.

On 2/2/10, AFPM (then NPRA) filed a legal challenge against California's LCFS. The legal arguments are 1) the CA LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution because (a) it directly regulates interstate and foreign commerce and extraterritorial conduct, including the extraction, production and transport of transportation fuels and fuel feedstocks outside of California; (b) it imposes substantial burdens on interstate commerce that are clearly excessive in relation to the claimed local benefits; and (c) it discriminates both on its face, and as applied, against transportation fuels and fuel feedstocks imported from outside of California with the intended effect of (i) promoting in-state production of transportation fuels, and (ii) "keep[ing] consumer dollars local by reducing the need to make fuel purchases from beyond [California's] borders;" and 2) the CA LCFS violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution because it conflicts with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and the federal Renewable Fuels Standard. On 12/29/11, U.S. District Judge O'Neill (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California) ruled that the CA LCFS violates the dormant Commerce Clause and granted a preliminary injunction that enjoins CARB from enforcing the CA LCFS during appeal. CARB filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  On 4/23/12, this court granted California's motion to stay the preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the CA LCFS. This court, on 9/8/13, reversed the 12/29/11 decision.  

On 1/9/15, AFPM submitted an amended CA LCFS Complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California because it violates the U.S. Constitution and principles of interstate federalism and discriminates against fuels and fuel feedstocks imported from outside California.

Last updated January 2015