Clean Air Act and Climate Change
The Environmental Protection Division, in coordination with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), handles legal matters related to the federal Clean Air Act, state air statutes and regulations, and climate change. The Division works to ensure that Vermonters have clean air to breathe and to protect future generations from the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal agency responsible for carrying out the Clean Air Act (the Act). The Act requires EPA to adopt rules to regulate air pollutants and to periodically revise those rules. The rules include setting of air quality standards, regulating emissions from stationary and mobile sources and limiting air pollution moving downwind from one state to another.
The Division works cooperatively with other like-minded states to ensure compliance with the Act. Often times, the Division, as part of a multi-state effort, supports EPA against industry legal challenges. At other times, the Division, along with other states, brings legal action against EPA if it fails to carry out the Act’s requirements.
Examples of Vermont Multi-State Air Actions:
- Vermont Defends the Federal Clean Power Plan
- EPA issues proposed rule to curb climate change pollution from existing power plants
- Vermont sues EPA for failure to update standards for wood heaters
- Vermont along with fourteen states and cities calls for the swift adoption of national air pollution controls for motor vehicles
- EPA takes action on particulate pollution
- Vermont supports clean air act rule reducing toxic air pollution from power plants
The Office also brings enforcement actions to make sure private companies follow the Clean Air Act.
Attorney General Sorrell places great importance on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change threatens much of what makes Vermont unique — its vibrant fall colors, maple sugar production, and winter sports. Climate change significantly affects the economy and public health. The Division acts to help ensure that EPA properly regulates greenhouse gas emissions and that Vermont does its part as well.
In 2005, the automobile industry and its allies sued Vermont over its adoption of the “California Standards” for greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles. The Division, with assistance from New York Attorney General’s Office, other states and environmental groups, defended Vermont’s regulations in a lengthy trial in federal district court. In a 2007 landmark decision, the federal court upheld Vermont’s regulation, and that decision helped to lead to a national settlement with the auto makers on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles. The settlement (and successor agreement) continues today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of tons from vehicles in the United States.
On September 8, 2016, the Attorney General field suit against Volkswagen and related companies for alleged violation of Vermont’s Vehicle Emission Regulations and Consumer Protection Act relating to the alleged fraudulent use of a “defeat device” on certain vehicle models. The defeat device allowed the vehicles to “pass” vehicle emissions testing while actually releasing emissions well over the legal limits.
From the efforts on motor vehicles to advocacy and litigation to limit the emissions of the nation’s largest stationary sources (power plants and petroleum refineries) — the Division continues its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To learn more about the Clean Air Act:
To learn more about the Agency of Natural Resources Air Quality & Climate Division:
To learn more about the State of Vermont and climate change: