New setback for automakers

first_imgBrendan Bell, a Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Sessions’ swift rejection of their arguments could lead judges considering similar disputes in California and Rhode Island to dismiss the cases. One of the plaintiffs, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Co. and others, has not said whether it will appeal the Vermont decision. Sessions’ ruling built upon the momentum for stronger emissions requirements created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in April that said the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. As a result, the EPA now has dozens of scientists and researchers developing new regulations that are slated to be released by the end of the year. The rules are expected to incorporate President Bush’s “20 in 10” proposal to reduce gasoline use by 20 percent by 2017. Bell said the decision was “one more turn of the crank putting pressure” on the EPA as it develops the rules. “It sets the bar,” Bell said. “What California is proposing is technologically feasible and is the floor.” EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the agency was “in the process of taking the first regulatory step in addressing greenhouse gas emissions from new cars” and would issue a proposal by the end of the year. The Vermont case will also be part of the backdrop in the negotiations expected to begin this fall on an energy bill. The Senate approved tougher fuel economy regulations in June that would require automakers to reach 35 mpg by 2020. A similar House bill was silent on the issue and lawmakers from both chambers will need to resolve the differences. The industry has tried to build support for an alternative that would seek more moderate increases in the standards for cars and trucks, up to 32 to 35 mpg by 2022. Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a nonprofit environmental group, said the ruling would help House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., build consensus around the Senate version. “The Senate provisions look quite tame compared to California, they look very modest and moderate so it gives Pelosi a very strong argument,” O’Donnell said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – A ruling by a Vermont judge this week against the auto industry over tough rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions could have national ramifications, from government agencies developing new regulations to the halls of Congress. The decision, the latest setback for the auto industry, could stifle similar litigation pursued by carmakers while placing more pressure on Congress to implement strict fuel economy rules in an energy bill expected to be negotiated this fall. Environmental groups said Judge William Sessions III’s decision on Wednesday bolstered the attempt by California and its allies to receive a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set up more stringent vehicle anti-pollution standards than those used by the federal government. “This, I think, turns up the heat on the EPA on the question of the waiver which is the key step here,” said Phil Sharp, a former Indiana congressman who serves as president of Resources for the Future, an environmental group. The EPA has said it will decide on the waiver by the end of the year. Under the Clean Air Act, California has permission to implement its own pollution rules if it receives a federal waiver. Vermont is among a dozen states that have adopted California’s standards. In Vermont, automakers challenged the limits developed by California that would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks by 2016. The industry said that would require average fuel economy standards to surpass 43 miles per gallon, well above the current requirement of 27.5 mpg for passenger cars. Those standards are unattainable, the industry said during the April trial, arguing that it would create a patchwork of regulations across the nation and cause financial hardships for the manufacturers. But Sessions was unconvinced, writing that “history suggests that the ingenuity of the industry, once put in gear, responds admirably to most technological challenges.” The judge reached his decision after listening to hours of expert testimony and analysis put forth by the auto industry during the 16-day trial. last_img

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