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California Court Upholds Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards For New Motor Vehicles

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-0269

December 12, 2007 - Attorney General William H. Sorrell applauded a decision issued today by a federal judge in California that supported a decision issued by Chief Judge William K. Sessions in September on Vermont’s identical greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) regulations for new motor vehicles. Like Judge Sessions, Judge Ishii in the Eastern District of California found that the GHG regulations did not conflict with the federal fuel economy law or U.S. foreign policy.

“It’s great to see that the California federal court agreed with Judge Sessions,” said Sorrell. “Let’s hope that EPA will grant California’s waiver request immediately so we can usher in the new year with these regulations on the books,” he added.

On September 12, 2007, in a 244-page decision, Judge Sessions rejected the auto industry’s main claim that the emission standards are actually fuel economy standards that conflict with the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act. He also ruled that the GHG emissions standards do not interfere with the foreign policy powers of the President or Congress.

Vermont’s regulations incorporate by reference regulations adopted by California. To date, 11 other states have adopted California’s regulations. The regulations establish one set of GHG emission standards for passenger cars, small trucks, and small Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and another set for large trucks and large SUVS. The standards require automobile manufacturers to decrease fleetwide emissions on a graduated basis for each model year between 2009 and 2016.

The Vermont case began in November 2005, when General Motors, Daimler-Chrysler, two auto industry trade groups, and three Vermont dealers filed two separate lawsuits challenging Vermont’s GHG regulations. The State of New York and a number of environmental groups intervened in the case in support of Vermont. The court held a 16-day trial in April and May of this year, and then accepted final briefs in the middle of June. Judge Sessions issued his decision in September, and the auto industry has appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must grant a waiver to California for its regulations in order for Vermont’s regulations to be effective. California submitted its application to EPA in December of 2005, but EPA has not yet ruled on it. EPA has indicated that it will make a decision by the end of this calendar year.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.