Sunday, 30 September 2007 17:00

Federal Judge Affirms State Emissions

A Vermont federal judge ruled against car companies in a suit versus the state of Vermont regarding state-mandated auto emissions standards. Car manufacturers filed the suit after Vermont issued regulations requiring reductions in vehicle greenhouse gas emission.

Judge William K. Sessions III, who wrote the decision, affirmed that Vermont’s effort to control greenhouse gas emissions is not preempted by the federal law. 

he New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also sided with Vermont in the suit. The federal court ruling favors state emission standards that are modeled after California air pollution laws.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation believes the court’s decision supports the right of states to require car manufacturers to reduce emissions from the vehicles they manufacture. A similar legal conflict in California is also under way. For Vermont and California laws to go into effect, the EPA must grant California a waiver to adopt more stringent standards than those of the federal government. (See Autobody News, September 2007)

Along with the ruling, a joint letter was sent by 13 state governors to six leading car manufacturers asking them to cease opposition to state implementation of clean tailpipe standards. New Mexico Governor William Blaine “Bill” Richardson believes that clean tailpipe standards could reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new vehicles approximately 30 percent. The letter was signed by the governors of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington.

“The trend is certainly for states to model their clean car programs after the State of California. The Automotive Service Association (ASA) continues to be concerned with states tying clean air and extended warranties as was done in California,” said Bob Redding, ASA’s Washington, D.C., representative.

“Several of these same states have implemented or are now considering California’s model regulations as they move toward clean car policy. As California’s policies are adopted, there is little focus on the impact of these super warranties on independent repairers.”

California AG speaks up

In response to the Vermont decision, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. renewed his vow to “haul the Bush administration into court” if the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refuses to grant California’s request to impose tough emissions standards on motor vehicles.

Responding to the decision, Brown said, “Unfortunately,[the] decision upholding California's greenhouse gas emissions standards will turn out to be a hollow victory if the EPA persists in denying California's waiver petition.”

Brown alleges that the Bush administration has been ducking California’s request since 2005.

“We will haul the Bush administration into court if it persists in stalling on our request to regulate emissions from motor vehicles,” Brown warned.

“Our petition represents a reasoned approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it has been shamefully ignored for almost two years,” Brown said.

Approval of California’s waiver means the other states would get approval automatically.

Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963 and subsequent amendments in 1967, 1970 and 1977 expressly allowed California to impose stricter environmental regulations in recognition of the state’s “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” including topography, climate, high number and concentration of vehicles and its pioneering role in vehicle emissions regulation. Brown said Congress intended the state to continue its pioneering efforts at adopting stricter motor vehicle emissions standards, far more advanced than the federal rules.

California has long asserted that the automobile industry can rise to the challenge of global warming. Judge Sessions -- in a thorough 240-page analysis -- agreed and stated: “History suggests that the ingenuity of the industry, once put in gear, responds admirably to most technological challenges.”

To view the Vermont Court Decision and an excerpt from the letter sent by 13 state governors, go to TakingTheHill.com.


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