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Auto Industry Screams Global Warming Regulations Will Bring ‘Confusion And Chaos’

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"Auto Industry Screams Global Warming Regulations Will Bring ‘Confusion And Chaos’"

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Today, President Obama took a step to reverse Bush-era intransigence on the fight against global warming, directing “federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks.” In 2002, California passed greenhouse gas standards for vehicle emissions, since adopted by 13 other states. However, they have been blocked since then by litigation from the automakers in concert with the Bush administration.

The auto lobby continues to fight this long-needed change. In an interview with National Public Radio, Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers claimed the California standard would bring catastrophe:

At this difficult time, what we need is certainty and consistency, not confusion and chaos. And I think we’re all concerned that this would create chaos, not only for consumers, but also for dealers and for manufacturers.

This is nonsense. The auto industry has long been able to handle California’s higher emissions standards for other pollutants. If two standards — California and federal — are too confusing for today’s automakers, it’s no wonder the companies are in decline. Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, retorted with the fact that Detroit’s problems have come in large part because of its failure to innovate:

The irony here is the auto companies want a bailout, in many ways because they weren’t building the kind of cars that were compatible with today’s energy market — and at the same time, they want to keep going with their lawsuits, which have already cost millions and millions of dollars.

These auto industry lawsuits against the adoption of AB 1493 include:

Massachusetts

Massachusetts et al v EPA et al
Status: Industry lost in federal appeals and Supreme Court.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled it would not regulate transportation sector greenhouse gases. Massachusetts and 11 other states sued the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Auto industry trade groups argued in favor of the EPA’s inaction. The Court of Appeals ruled for the EPA in 2005. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the appeal, and on April 2, 2007 ruled that the EPA had to begin the regulatory process for greenhouse gases. On July 11, 2008, the Bush administration grudgingly published draft regulations.

California

Central Valley Chrysler Jeep, et al v Goldstene et al (No. 08-17380)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.

Filed in California district court in 2006 and stayed until the Supreme Court Mass v. EPA decision, the judge found against the plaintiffs in December 2007. The plaintiffs filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on October 30, 2008.

Vermont

Green Mountain Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge v. Crombie (No. 07-4342, filed 10/5/2007, Second Circuit)
Status: Industry lost in district court, filed federal appeal.

On September 12, 2007, a federal judge in Vermont ruled that the state may impose its own greenhouse gas emission standards on automakers. Vermont Chrysler and Ford dealerships, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Chrysler, and General Motors appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhode Island

Lincoln Dodge, Inc et al v. Sullivan (No. 06-00070, filed 2/13/20065, District of Rhode Island)
Status: In district court.

On November 25, the district court in Rhode Island dismissed the automakers from the lawsuit, holding that they are already suing in California and Vermont. The co-plaintiff auto dealers are maintaining the suit.

New Mexico

Zangara Dodge, Inc et al. v. Ron Curry et al. (No. 07-01305, filed 12/27/2007, in District of New Mexico)
Status: In district court.

New Mexico car dealers and the National Automobile Dealers Association sued to block the New Mexico Clean Car program in April 2008.

Maine

Status: State court denied stay.

The Kennebec County Superior court denied a request by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to stay Maine’s standards, and refused to send the matter back to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) for reconsideration.

When asked by the Wonk Room how much his group is spending on these lawsuits, Territo said, “It’s not relevant how much money AAM has spent because there are so many other groups participating.”

In the NPR interview, Territo continued with this Orwellian description of his industry’s lawsuits and lobbying against higher standards:

I think that we’ve shown as an industry a willingness to change, a willingness to be part of the solution. And we’re looking to work with this administration to help meet all of our goals of enhancing energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As Center for American Progress senior fellow Dan Weiss recommends, companies that receive bridge loans “should agree to cease challenges to the California program and new fuel economy standards.” In fact, all car companies should follow that advice — it’s a lot easier for companies to find solutions when they give the money to engineers instead of lobbyists, as incoming Energy Secretary Steven Chu has explained.

Update

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) tells Politico “he was assured in recent discussions with top Obama environment officials that the Environmental Protection Agency ‘does not begin with a foregone conclusion’ that a waiver should be granted to the state so it can go beyond federal limits.” He continued:

I sure hope that is true, because a separate California standard will not only create the ‘confusing and patchwork set of standards’ that President Obama today implied he wanted to avoid, but also, as the California standard is currently drafted, it is discriminatory against U.S.-made vehicles of the same efficiency as the imports.

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