A federal District Court in California granted summary judgment to the State of California in a suit filed by the auto industry challenging California's power to pass legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. California submitted a request for a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act to enact their own emissions standards for automobiles, but the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to rule on the request. The case follows the ruling in the US Supreme Court that EPA may regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act and the carbon dioxide is an “air pollutant” under the Act.
The auto industry argued that California was prevented from were barred from regulating greenhouse emissions by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and that regulations proposed by the California Air Resources Control Board are preempted by U.S. foreign policy.
The District Court granted summary judgment to California, holding that the state's law would not conflict with federal authority nor bar the state from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Further he concluded that if the EPA granted a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act to allow California’s proposed emissions standards, enforcement of such regulations would be consistent with the Clean Air Act.
The judge stated in his ruling, “Although regulations proposed by California ... must broadly advance EPA's primary purpose to protect public health and welfare and must be at least as stringent as the corresponding EPA regulations in the aggregate, the proposed, California regulations need not establish perfect compliance with all provisions of the Clean Air Act.”
The two-year delay in EPA issued a waiver for California resulted in the recent filing of a lawsuit against EPA to attempt to force action. Fourteen other states — including New York, Illinois and Massachusetts. The waiver also would allow these states and other states to adopt the California greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles. These standards would reduce emissions by 2009 from cars and light trunks by 25% and from sport utility vehicles by 18%.
“Evidence presented to this court supports the conclusion that regulation of greenhouse gases emitted from motor vehicles has a place in the broader struggle to address global warming,” the opinion said. “Ultimately, the court concludes that plaintiffs have not met their burden to demonstrate that the regulation stands as an obstacle to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act’s objectives.”