Federal Court Rebukes Auto Industry Challenge to Clean Car Program as "the Very Definition of Folly"

December 12, 2007

Tony Kreindler 202-572-3378 (office) or 202-210-5791 (cell)

(Washington — December 12, 2007) Federal district court Judge Anthony Ishii issued a strong rebuke to the automobile industry’s attempt to derail the California Clean Car program that would reduce global warming pollution from motor vehicles. The car companies claimed that the nation’s fuel economy law preempted the regulation of global warming pollution by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the federal Clean Air Act.  
“This is a huge win for clean air and a cooler planet. Judge Ishii’s opinion leaves no doubt that the EPA must act now to pave the way for the innovative clean car programs being advanced by California and 16 other states across the nation,” said Vickie Patton, senior attorney with Environmental Defense, a defendant-intervener in the case.
“EPA Administrator Steve Johnson should immediately grant California’s request to move ahead with this program. All similar California air pollution requests have been approved. Not one has been turned down in EPA history,” said Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp.
Judge Ishii wrote: “Given the level of impairment of human health and welfare that current climate science indicates may occur if human-generated greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, it would be the very definition of folly if EPA were precluded from action….” 
Judge Ishii sits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (in Fresno, California). In September 2007, a federal district court judge in Vermont similarly rejected automobile manufacturers’ claims that the Clean Car program was preempted by federal law and claims that the program is not feasible – after an exhaustive 16 day trial. 
On April 2, 2007, the United States Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA squarely affirmed EPA’s power to regulate global warming pollution from motor vehicles and paved the way for state clean car programs nationwide.  
On December 21, 2005 California submitted to EPA a waiver request for the Clean Car program which has been pending before EPA for nearly two years.   A final decision is imminent.   Some 98,000 comments were submitted in response to EPA’s request for comment on the waiver, conveying overwhelming public support; only one individual automobile manufacturer and some automobile trade associations submitted negative comments.    EPA’s waiver of federal preemption under the Clean Air Act is the last step for the Clean Car program to rev up in states across the nation. EPA has consistently granted such waiver requests some 53 times over the last 40 years.    

1. Cars and light trucks are one of America’s largest sources of global warming pollution, and by far the fastest growing. Cars and light trucks account for 16% of U.S. global warming pollution.   This pollution soared by 25% between 1990 and 2005.  
2. Seventeen states led by both Republicans and Democrats are advancing clean car programs that would lower global warming pollution using available technology, save American families money at the pump, and strengthen energy security: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.  
3. These 17 states reflect some 139 million people, nearly half the U.S. population.  
4. Politically, these 17 states encompass 202 Congressional districts with 73 Republican and 129 Democratic representatives, 10 House Committee Chairmen, and 11 Senate Committee Chairmen.  
5.   The Clean Cars program would reduce global warming pollution an estimated 110 million metric tons annually by 2020. The program is implemented through a flexible fleetwide average that will cut global warming pollution about 30% in its second phase.  

Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members.  Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.  www.environmentaldefense.org