Obama Starts Process to Grant California Waiver; Auto Industry Cries Foul 1

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 26 Jan 2009 17:50:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

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.
The auto industry has long been able to handle California’s higher emissions standards for other pollutants. Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, retorted 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 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.


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.


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.


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.”


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  1. 44 mpg by March 2009 Tue, 27 Jan 2009 00:21:47 GMT

    This discussion raises an odd question about compliance with the California Waiver emissions and fueleconomy specs/standards.

    Which most closely satisfies the proposed California Emissions standards:

    A) US manufactured and specificationed vehicles?

    ... OR …

    B) GM, Ford, and Chrysler/Fiat’s European vehicles (E/U spec’ed) rated above 40 mpg(US) [about 48 mpg(Imperial)] combined cycle?

    Does anyone know?

    How about a best guess?

    It certainly would be really nice to know the real facts right now!

    If the Det3 EU vehicles are closer … why not temporary (say 24 months) WAIVE ALL import restrictions on new EU approved vehicles rated greater than 51 mpg(Imperial) combined cycle. This would open a previously untapped US market segment above 44 mpg(US), giving the Det3 the opportunity for immediate NEW POSITIVE CASHFLOW and the chance to increase domestic market share and subsequently, ultimately increasing domestic manufacturing output.

    The 24 month waiver immediately gives consumer choice/experience, IMMEDIATE NEW CASHFLOW for Det3, provides low cost/risk visibility to buyer preferences, opens the 44 to 63 mpg(US) combined average market sector, reduces oil imports/emissions, provides Det3 time to resolve emissions/safety issues in order to establish domestic manufacture/sale of “popular” configuration (including small displacement diesels).

    How is that for a “Quick Response, Self Funding, Low Cost, Low Risk Auto Industry/Economy Stimulus Strategy” (probable value $20 ~$120 BILLION).