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Carmakers Lose Emissions Case, California Waits For EPA Decision

Vermont federal Judge William K. Sessions III has rejected challenges from auto manufacturers and upheld a state law that requires a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from cars, The New York Times reports.

Judge Sessions ruled that the auto manufacturers had not proved their claims that compliance with the 30 percent cut was not feasible or their claims that federal laws took precedence over state rules.

The decision follows a Supreme Court ruling in April that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by declining to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, The Washington Post reports. The ruling in Vermont explicitly endorses the idea that California – the case there is still pending – has the right to set its own regulations on the gases, and that other states, like Vermont, have the right to follow its lead. Following the ruling by the Supreme Court, Bush signed an executive order directing the departments of Transportation, Agriculture and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to craft regulations that will cut gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles and to have the rules in place by the end of 2008

Under the U.S. Clean Air Act, California can set emissions rules that are stricter than federal standards once it obtains a waiver from the EPA, which says it will make a decision on California’s waiver request by the end of the year. The Clean Air Act allows other states to adopt California’s rules or the federal government’s.

Sessions said in his ruling that he assumed the EPA would grant California the waiver, Bloomberg reports. If California is denied a waiver, the Vermont rules are invalid, he said.

Governors of California, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and nine other states sent a letter to chief executive officers of GM, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America and three other automakers today asking that the industry drop legal challenges to their efforts to lower carbon emissions, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said automakers support improving fuel economy standards nationally rather than piecemeal. McCurdy, in a statement, said the alliance was considering an appeal, according to the Washington Post article.

“This ruling takes away the last excuse for delay -? it’s time for EPA to clear the way for cleaner cars,” said Jim Tripp, General Counsel for Environmental Defense, who helped argue the VT case. “The U.S. auto industry should stop litigating and start innovating.”

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