Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that a federal judge in Burlington has upheld Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) regulations for new motor vehicles. In his 244 page decision, Chief Judge William K. Sessions rejected the auto industry’s main claim that the emission standards are actually fuel economy standards that conflict with the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act. Judge Sessions also ruled that the GHG emissions standards do not interfere with the foreign policy powers of the President or Congress.
“This is such a big win,” said Sorrell. “For those concerned about a healthier environment and those concerned about global warming, this is indeed a day to celebrate.”
Vermont’s regulations incorporate by reference regulations adopted by California in 2005. To date, 11 other states have adopted California’s regulations. The regulations establish one set of GHG emission standards for passenger cars, small trucks, and small Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and another set for large trucks and large SUVS. The standards require automobile manufacturers to decrease fleetwide emissions on a graduated basis for each model year between 2009 and 2016. Reductions can be achieved by: (1) use of alternative fuels; (2) air conditioning credits; (3) improved engine/powertrain efficiency, including hybrid vehicles; and (4) other factors (such as reduced tire resistance). When fully phased in, the regulations are expected to reduce motor vehicle GHG emissions by ~30%.
The Vermont case began in November 2005, when General Motors, Daimler-Chrysler, two auto industry trade groups, and three Vermont dealers filed two separate lawsuits challenging Vermont’s GHG regulations. The State of New York and a number of environmental groups intervened in the case in support of Vermont. The court held a 16-day trial in April and May of this year, and then accepted final briefs in the middle of June.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must grant a waiver to California for its regulations in order for Vermont’s regulations to be effective. California submitted its application to EPA in December of 2005, but EPA has not yet ruled on it. EPA has indicated that it will make a decision by the end of this calendar year.
Last modified: January 11, 2018