13 December 2007

The United States District Court for Eastern California has rejected the automobile industry challenge to California’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission regulation. The regulation, established by bill AB 1493 in 2002, requires an about 30% reduction in tailpipe GHG emissions by 2016, starting with model year 2009.

The Court concluded that both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California are equally empowered under the Clean Air Act to set regulations limiting GHG emissions from motor vehicles. The court also ruled that California regulations do not conflict with federal authority. Under the decision, the Court:

  • Rejected the automakers’ claim that United States foreign policy and federal fuel economy laws preempt state authority to control GHG emissions.
  • Ruled that if California’s motor vehicle GHG regulations are approved by EPA, enforcement of the regulations will be consistent with federal law.

The court also found that there is no conflict between EPA’s or California’s duty to regulate emissions and the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s authority to set fuel efficiency standards. The court held that mileage standards should be harmonized with the California’s emission regulations.

The California GHG regulation still requires an approval by the EPA. Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt emission standards that are different from federal regulations, if it obtains a waiver from the EPA. California requested such waiver for the GHG regulation in 2005. After two years of delay on this request, California sued the EPA in November, demanding a response. EPA has said it will make a decision by the end of the year.

Once California receives the EPA waiver, other states are permitted to adopt California standards. Fourteen other states joined California in the lawsuit against EPA, including Massachusetts, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

In September, a Vermont District Court also ruled in favor of the state GHG regulations, rejecting a similar challenge from the automobile industry.

Source: California Attorney General