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Vermont To Join Lawsuit Appealing EPA’s Denial Of California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards For New Motor Vehicles

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

January 2, 2009 - Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that Vermont and 14 other States are seeking to join a lawsuit filed by the State of California in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denial of California’s request for approval of its greenhouse gas emission standards for new motor vehicles. Vermont, as well as over a dozen other states, have adopted or are in the process of adopting regulations with standards identical to California’s in order to combat global warming. However, the states cannot enforce their regulations until EPA grants a waiver for California’s standards. On December 19, 2007, EPA Administrator Johnson wrote California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that he was denying California’s application, but did not explain the legal justification for his decision.

“We will do whatever it takes to overturn EPA’s decision. Courts in Vermont and California have upheld these regulations, and EPA’s denial is unprecedented,” said Attorney General Sorrell. “EPA is going to have a tough time explaining why it denied California’s request,” he added.

The federal Clean Air Act gives California the unique authority to set its own more stringent emission standards for new motor vehicles and allows other states to adopt regulations identical to California’s, rather that those set by the federal government. California adopted its greenhouse gas emissions standards on August 4, 2005. 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.

Vermont successfully defended its regulations against a challenge by the auto industry in federal court in Burlington in September. 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. On September 12, 2007, Chief Judge William K. Sessions III rejected the auto industry’s 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. On December 12, 2007, a federal district court in California issued a similar ruling upholding California’s regulations.

Today’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. If EPA issues another decisional document that calls for the appeal to be filed in the D.C. Circuit, Vermont will join a challenge in that court. The other states or state agencies intervening in today’s suit are: Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island, and Washington.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.