September 14, 2007

Right to stringent tailpipe laws upheld in Vermont

Burlington, Vermont – A case filed in federal court over Vermont’s right to adopt stringent tailpipe emissions laws has been ruled in favour of the state. The decision on Green Mountain Plymouth Dodge Jeep v. Crombie means that states are free to adopt California’s tailpipe laws regarding greenhouse gas emissions, which are stricter than current federal standards.

The case was filed in federal court by General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, along with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, against the state of Vermont, naming George Crombie, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers filed a separate complaint, which was consolidated with this one.

The case, which went to trial in April, sought to strike down Vermont’s state regulation of greenhouse gases from automobiles. The automakers contended that the state law is preempted by the federal fuel economy law, and that it is impossible to regulate carbon dioxide from motor vehicles without regulating fuel economy, which only the federal government can do.

Vermont had adopted a regulation identical to California’s; that state, under the Clean Air Act, may set more stringent limits on automobile tailpipe emissions than the federal government does. The Act also says that other states may adopt California’s standards.

The judge yesterday issued a 244-page opinion, granting judgment in favour of the preemption from federal standards, and granted judgment against the automakers’ claims that state law is preempted by federal foreign policy. He dismissed all other claims.

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