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Vermont And Six States Urge Congress To Include Greenhouse Gas Legislation With Any Financial Aid Package To U.S. Auto Industry

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

November 17, 2008 - As both houses meet in Washington D.C. this week to decide whether to give the ailing U.S. automobile industry financial aid, Attorney General William H. Sorrell urged Congress to include greenhouse gas legislation with any relief package.

“If the domestic auto manufacturers are to survive, they must change their ways” said Sorrell. “Making them produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars is key to their future success and should be part of any financial package,” he added.

The letter, which is addressed to Speaker of the House Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid asserts that “if the U.S. auto industry is serious about taking millions in aid from our pockets, it must show us that it too is serious about global warming and taking a leading (and therefore profitable) role as a producer of fuel-efficient and carbon-sensitive vehicles.” It requests that any legislation giving financial support to the auto industry should be dependent on a commitment by the auto manufacturers to drop their opposition to California’s greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles. It also urges Congress to include legislation to remove any doubt that California’s standards are enforceable if it takes up any short- or long-term financial aid for the automobile industry.

California’s standards, which Vermont incorporated by reference, 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. Under the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must grant a waiver to California for its standards in order for Vermont’s standards to be effective. EPA denied the waiver in December of 2007, but that decision is under appeal.

On September 12, 2007, Chief Judge William K. Sessions III rejected the auto industry plaintiffs’ 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 emission standards do not interfere with the foreign policy powers of the President or Congress. The auto industry has appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. On December 12, 2007, a federal court in California issued a similar ruling upholding California’s regulations and that decision is under appeal as well.

The States of California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Oregon joined the letter.

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