Green Mountain Chrysler v. Crombie 2:05-cv-302 (D.Vt. 2007)
In 2002, California enacted legislation, known as AB
1493 (aka the Pavley legislation) to adopt regulations to set
greenhouse gas emission standards for new cars and light trucks sold in
The standards require automobile manufacturers to
decrease fleet wide emissions on a graduated basis, eventually reduce
motor vehicle emissions by approximately 30%.
California is the only State to have the ability to
choose their own air emissions standards under Clean Air Act §209(b),
but other States have the choice of using either the national EPA
regulation or the California regulation.
California must file a waiver to get their regulations
approved by EPA. However, at the time the Vermont regulation went into
effect, California's waiver had been filed with EPA but not approved.
To comply with the Clear Air Act, Vermont’s
regulations incorporate by reference all regulations adopted by California.
So, they (and 12 other States) adopted the Pavley legislation.
A number of car manufacturers and industry trade groups sued
Vermont to stop implementation of the new regulation.
The car manufacturers argued that the only way to
decrease emissions was to increase fuel economy and that was the province
of Department of Transportation (DOT), and not within EPA's mandate.
DOT has the authority to set fuel economy standards
under the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA)
(aka 49 U.S.C. §§ 32902-19).
Since EPCA is a Federal law, the car
manufacturers argued that States such as California and Vermont were
specifically prevented from enacting legislations that conflicted with a
Federal law under the doctrine of preemption.
EPCA §502 explicitly gives DOT the authority to
regulate "other motor vehicle standards."
EPCA §509 explicitly preempts any State laws or
regulations related to fuel economy standards.
The car manufacturers further argued that that the
regulations intrude on the foreign policy prerogatives of the President
and Congress, and are thus invalid under the related constitutional
doctrine of foreign policy preemption.
President Bush had specifically rejected international
treaties to regulate greenhouse gases.
The car manufacturers further argued that they had made
fuel economy standards as high as they could, and further improvements in
gas mileage were both technologically and economically infeasible.
That's industry's standard argument for all
Btw, the car manufacturers sued in California and other
States as well, but all of those judges decided to delay hearing
arguments of this case until the US Supreme Court had decided Massachusetts
v. EPA (127 S.Ct. 1483 (2007)). So, the Vermont case was the first
one to get decided.
The Federal District Court upheld the Vermont regulation.
The Court looked to Massachusetts v. EPA and found
that EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and DOT’s
authority to set fuel economy standards overlap but do not conflict, and
that the agencies have the duty to work together, particularly with
regard to emissions standards that affect fuel economy.
The Court found that California's emissions regulations
are sufficiently unrelated to fuel economy standards not to be expressly
You don't absolutely have to raise fuel economy to
lower emissions, that's just the easiest way to do it.
The Court also felt that the car manufacturers did not
"show that compliance with the regulation is not feasible; nor have
they demonstrated that it will limit consumer choice, create economic
hardship for the automobile industry, cause significant job loss, or undermine
At the time I took this class, only the Trial Court had
decided. It is highly likely that this case will be appealed.