December 14, 2007

District court rejects auto industry challenge to California vehicle emissions standards

Fresno, California – The U.S. Eastern District Court has rejected an automobile industry challenge to California’s motor vehicle emissions standards, which require a 30 per cent reduction in tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, starting with model-year 2009.

“This is the fourth major legal victory for California and a stinging rejection of the automobile industry’s legal challenge to greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said California Attorney General Edmund Brown Jr. “This court ruling leaves the Bush administration as the last remaining roadblock to California’s regulation of tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions.”

The case originated in December 2004 when a group of California auto dealers, supported by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), filed a suit arguing that the California regulations were pre-empted by federal law. AIAM vehicle manufacturer members include Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

Under the decision, the Court concluded that both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California are equally empowered under the Clean Air Act to set regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. It further ruled that California regulations do not conflict with federal authority. There are 32 million registered vehicles in California, twice the number of any other state.

Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt its own emissions standards if it obtains a waiver from the EPA. The EPA has avoided California’s request since 2005 and remains the final roadblock to the state implementing the law. In November 2007, Attorney General Brown and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sued the EPA; fourteen other states joined California as interveners in that lawsuit, as they can adopt California’s standards under the Clean Air Act once California receives its waiver. The EPA has said it will make a decision by the end of the year. In September 2007, a Vermont District Court also ruled in favour of the state regulations, rejecting a similar challenge from the automobile industry.

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