BIG WIN OVER EMISSIONS
Will this legal victory incline the carmakers to submit to national emissions standards? Or will they appeal and take their chances with the more conservative judges on the Supreme Court?
Court Rules Vermont Can Regulate Auto Emissions
September 13, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswire via CNN Money)
States Are Closer To Trimming Autos’ CO2 Emissions; The move by 12 states could coax congress to pass efficiency limits
Mark Clayton, September 13, 2007 (Christian Science Monitor)
Judge William K. Sessions III, chief judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont; plaintiffs [General Motors Corp. (GM) , DaimlerChrysler (DAI), auto dealers and industry trade groups (Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Dave McCurdy, CEO)]; State of Vermont and environmental groups (Phyllis Cuttino, director, Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency, attorney Matt Pawa, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense; Steve Hinchman, attorney, Conservation Law Foundation)
Looks like the District Court Judge got the message. Will US carmakers?
Judge Session ruled that Vermont is legally entitled to set vehicle emissions standards.
- Decision handed down September 13.
- Vermont’s standard: Effective 2009, cars and trucks must reduce emissions 30% by 2016.
- Carmakers contend the standard requires a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 40+ mpg while the current federal CAFÉ standard is 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.5 mpg for light trucks in 2008.
California led the way with standards pushing the carmakers to improve. 10 states now have such laws and 6 more (Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Utah, Illinois, and Minnesota) are in the works, strengthened by this ruling. These states make up half the US car market.
- The decision is widely seen as a setback for carmakers. Though the judge found only that the plaintiffs failed to prove that tougher the Vermont emissions regulations were "sufficiently draconian" to "essentially usurp" the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fuel-economy standards, the suit was actually an effort to avoid the economic burden of meeting stricter emissions standards.
- More rulings and actions are expected. The EPA may be forced to enforce the Clean Air Act and back the states’ requirements. The pending laws are more likely to pass. Congress may be emboldened to strengthen pending national CAFÉ standards. Other carmaker lawsuits trying to stop legislation may be dropped.
Seems like California is going in the right direction. Will the country allow it to lead? (click to enlarge)
- Sessions: "History suggests that the ingenuity of the industry, once put in gear, responds admirably to most technological challenges…In light of the public statements of industry representatives, history of compliance with previous technological challenges, and the state of the record, the Court remains unconvinced automakers cannot meet the challenges of Vermont and California's (greenhouse gas) regulations."
- McCurdy (plaintiff): “[We are] studying the decision and considering the options, including an appeal…It makes sense that only the federal government can regulate fuel economy…Automakers support improving fuel economy standards nationally rather than piecemeal and will continue to work with the Congress, NHTSA and EPA to reduce our oil dependence while increasing fuel economy."
- Cuttino, enviromentalist: "Today's ruling by the U.S. District Court is more proof that auto industry arguments opposing meaningful fuel efficiency increases are no longer credible…[It] bluntly articulates what Americans overwhelmingly believe, what the National Academy of Sciences has found and what foreign automobile manufacturers have demonstrated: greater fuel efficiency is achievable without sacrificing vehicle size or power."
- Pawa, environmentalist:"This extremely important ruling makes clear that the US EPA and states acting under the Clean Air Act do have the power to set more stringent emissions limits on cars and can also regulate greenhouse gases…"
- Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists: "We've got a similar dynamic here to what was happening in the 1990s with states leading with strict standards on tailpipe emissions of nitrous oxide and other pollutants – and the EPA and federal government finally following…"
- Hinchman, environmentalist: "The court is looking carefully at the industry's argument that this will bankrupt us and drive us to ruin…The judge found the so-called obstacles to be overstated and that the industry has the financial resources. It's ironic because this is a step that's going to help the US auto industry. They should fire their lawyers and promote their engineers."