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Supreme Court Ruling May Motivate Auto-Makers

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  • Felix Kramer
    The Supreme Court has ruled that greenhouse gases are polluting emissions subject to regulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, new
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2007
      The Supreme Court has ruled that greenhouse gases
      are polluting emissions subject to regulation by
      the US Environmental Protection Agency. As a
      result, new cars in the relatively near future
      are going to have to emit much lower CO2 than
      they do now. This adds to the pressures on the
      auto industry to end business as usual thinking,
      and, we hope, start building "good enough" PHEVs.
      It adds to the momentum to fuel cars from renewable low-carbon sources.

      This ruling sets the stage for the EPA to approve
      the waiver necessary for California's first
      Global Warming Bill (AB1493, 2002) to go into
      effect. That bill requires automakers to begin
      reducing GHGs from cars beginning in 2009, with
      reductions reaching 30% in 2016. Back in 2004, at
      the Air Resources Board's hearings on
      implementing the bill, we got ARB members'
      attention by pointing out that GHGs in new cars
      could drop by 60% if they were PHEVs

      The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, Senator
      Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment Committe
      (who we expect will see two PHEVs next week:
      <http://www.calcars.org/events.html>) and
      Michigan Rep. John Dingell now find themselves
      agreeing on the need uniform for a national
      approach to the problem. And it looks like those
      standards may now have a chance of being established at meaningful levels!

      Our round-up of articles from the San Jose
      Mercury News, the Wall Street Journal and the NY
      Times give the context and talk about the implications of the rulings.

      Supreme Court ruling backs up state law requiring eco-friendly cars
      By Paul Rogers progers@... or (408)920-5045.
      San Jose Mercury News 04/03/2007

      Monday's landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on
      global warming increases the chances that a new
      generation of fuel-efficient cars could begin
      hitting the roads as soon as next year.

      In a 5-4 ruling, the court - taking up global
      warming for the first time - declared that the
      federal Clean Air Act clearly allows the U.S.
      Environmental Protection Agency to regulate
      carbon dioxide as a form of air pollution.

      The ruling, written by Justice John Paul Stevens,
      was a stern rebuke to the Bush administration,
      which argued the EPA had no authority to regulate
      greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

      "This is probably the most important Supreme
      Court environmental ruling in history," said Carl
      Pope, national executive director of the Sierra Club, in San Francisco.

      "It is huge. It takes off the table the arguments
      that the Bush administration has been making in
      case after case - that environmental law shouldn't apply to global warming."

      The ruling directly affects whether California
      can order automakers to cut emissions of carbon
      dioxide - formed by the burning of gasoline - and
      other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

      In 2002, then-Gov. Gray Davis signed a
      first-in-the-nation law that requires all new
      cars, passenger trucks, sport-utility vehicles
      and minivans sold in California to cut greenhouse
      gas emissions starting with the 2009 model year.
      Those vehicles would begin to appear in show
      rooms late next year. The law required that by
      2016, carmakers had to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30percent.

      Automakers sued. They claimed that California did
      not have the authority, saying the only way to
      reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to burn less
      gasoline and that only the federal government can set mileage standards.

      But California said it wasn't regulating mileage
      standards, only a form of pollution, carbon
      dioxide - a move allowed under the Clean Air Act.

      The lawsuit, filed by the Alliance of Automobile
      Manufacturers, has been put on hold in federal
      court in Fresno pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.

      "We believe this bodes very well for us," said
      California EPA Undersecretary Dan Skopec.

      A spokesman for the alliance would not discuss the case Monday.

      "The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
      believes that there needs to be a national,
      federal, economywide approach to addressing
      greenhouse gases," its president, Dave McCurdy, said Monday.

      If California wins the lawsuit, which now seems
      likely, one hurdle would remain. The Clean Air
      Act requires the state to gain the federal EPA's
      approval for its new rules. In years past, for
      other rules, such waivers have been a formality.
      Despite requests from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
      during the past two years, the Bush
      administration has refused to grant the waiver for the greenhouse rules.

      "I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court's
      decision today that greenhouse gases are
      pollutants and should be regulated by the federal
      government," the governor said Monday. "We expect
      the U.S. EPA to move quickly now in granting our
      request for a waiver, which will allow California
      and 13 other states that have adopted our
      standards to set tougher vehicle emissions levels."

      Seventeen states - including most of New England,
      New York, Oregon and Washington - have either
      copied California's rule or have bills pending to
      do so. Together they make up 50percent of the U.S. population.

      In effect, California has tried to do an end-run
      around the Bush administration, which has
      embraced only voluntary greenhouse gas limits.
      The California EPA has said the vehicle rule
      could be met with such technology as
      low-rolling-resistance tires, more hybrid engines
      and variable-valve timing. By 2016, those would
      add $1,000 to the price of a new car, according
      to the state Air Resources Board, which contends
      drivers make up the difference with reduced fuel costs.

      Tom Jennings, chief counsel for the California
      Air Resources Board, said Monday that the state
      is now in the driver's seat legally.

      "If EPA were to deny the waiver, we are fully
      prepared to litigate that," he said.

      The Bush administration's response was muted. The
      White House said the ruling "settled" whether the EPA could regulate the gases.

      "We're going to have to take a look and analyze
      it and see where we go from here," said White
      House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.

      Now that the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide,
      even if Bush is slow to act, future presidents
      could impose sweeping national EPA rules on
      factories and vehicles. That could be good news
      for companies in Silicon Valley and other areas
      who are developing solar power and other
      energy-efficient products, said Ron Pernick,
      co-founder of Clean Edge, a research company in Portland, Ore.

      "It has significant ramifications," Pernick said.
      "There are companies like Sharp and GE and Toyota
      and even Wal-Mart that already are investing in
      clean technology because of global warming. This
      is going to incentivize more companies to act."

      In Monday's ruling, Massachusetts, along with 11
      other states, including California, sued the U.S.
      EPA after it refused in 2003 to regulate carbon
      dioxide as it does other types of smog.

      Stevens said the Clean Air Act clearly allows
      carbon dioxide to be regulated because it defines
      a pollutant as "any physical, chemical ...
      substance or matter which is emitted" into the
      air. Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader
      Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed.

      Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, along with
      Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
      Roberts wrote his dissent "involves no judgment
      on whether global warming exists, what causes it,
      or the extent of the problem," but rather whether
      the states had standing to sue.

      Last year was the hottest annual average
      temperature in the United States since records
      were first kept 112 years ago, according to the
      National Climatic Data Center, a federal agency in North Carolina.

      Court Rulings Could Hit Utilities, Auto Makers
      White House Strategy Toward CO2 Emissions Is Faulted by Justices
      By JESS BRAVIN --Dean Treftz, John Fialka and
      John D. McKinnon contributed to this article.
      April 3, 2007; Page A1

      WASHINGTON -- In a decision that could mark a
      turning point in the national debate over climate
      change, a divided Supreme Court ruled that carbon
      dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases are
      air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and that
      the Bush administration broke the law in its
      refusal to limit emissions of those gases.

      The 5-4 decision was a victory for environmental
      groups, which had pushed for such a ruling, and a
      blow to the nation's auto and utility industries,
      among others, as well as the White House. The
      Bush administration has steadfastly opposed
      mandatory curbs on the emission of greenhouse
      gases, which most scientists believe contribute to global warming.

      The high court's decision turned on the technical
      issue of how to measure a power plant's
      compliance with the Clean Air Act. It didn't
      resolve a larger, longstanding debate among the
      utilities industry, the Environmental Protection
      Agency and environmentalists about the
      circumstance under which utilities can be required to upgrade power plants.

      It was the greenhouse-gases case that could have
      the broadest impact on both the nation's
      environment and its economy. The court's decision
      sets the stage for aggressive new regulation of
      auto emissions, a primary source of carbon dioxide.

      Any new regulations, which could be years away,
      would be likely to tackle the emissions issue by
      requiring auto makers to increase the fuel
      economy of their vehicles. While that would
      ultimately be good news for consumers, it could
      mean further distress for Detroit, where the
      struggling U.S. auto industry remains largely
      dependent on selling gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

      Individual auto makers declined to comment on the
      ruling, referring questions to their trade group,
      the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "The
      alliance looks forward to working constructively
      with both Congress and the administration,
      including EPA and the National Highway Traffic
      Safety Administration , in developing a national
      approach" to greenhouse emissions, the group said in a statement.

      In a separate statement, EPA spokeswoman Jennifer
      Wood said the agency was reviewing the decision
      "to determine the appropriate course of action."
      She said the Bush administration has an
      "unparalleled financial, international and
      domestic commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas
      emissions." She added that the "national and
      international voluntary programs" the
      administration prefers to regulation "are helping
      achieve reductions now while saving millions of
      dollars, as well as providing clean, affordable energy."
      In any case, the slow pace of the nation's
      regulatory machinery, the potential for
      congressional or legal challenges to future
      regulations, and the lead time industry would
      need to comply with them effectively ensure that
      no significant changes in regulating emissions
      will take effect during the remainder of Mr. Bush's time in office.

      That doesn't mean that Congress, now controlled
      by Democrats, won't press the issue. The House is
      already gearing up for action on climate change
      through a special committee set up by Speaker
      Nancy Pelosi to focus and coordinate work by the
      different panels with oversight of energy and the environment.

      The Senate also has taken up the cause. "This
      decision puts the wind at our back," Sen. Barbara
      Boxer (D., Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment
      and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.
      She promised to call the EPA before her committee
      to explain how it intends to comply with the
      ruling, while also pushing for additional legislation.

      In their ruling, the justices didn't order the
      EPA to regulate tailpipe emissions or say the
      agency couldn't take "policy concerns" into
      account when deciding what to do. But the opinion
      made clear that the court saw the Clean Air Act
      as a broad congressional mandate to protect the
      environment, suggesting it would have little
      patience with any future EPA finding that the
      law's goals were furthered by declining to regulate those emissions.

      "EPA can avoid taking further action only if it
      determines that greenhouse gases do not
      contribute to climate change or if it provides
      some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot
      or will not exercise its discretion to determine
      whether they do," the court said.

      In effect, the court found that the debate over
      the nation's response to climate change had been
      settled by Congress nearly 40 years ago, when it
      adopted the Clean Air Act. The law directs the
      EPA to adopt emission standards for "any air
      pollutant" from any type of motor vehicle that
      "could reasonably be anticipated to endanger
      public health or welfare," including effects on "weather" and "climate."

      Considered alongside scientific evidence and
      longstanding government policies recognizing the
      danger of climate change, the administration's
      failure to act was "arbitrary, capricious...or
      otherwise not in accordance with law," the high court said.

      Justices Say E.P.A. Has Power to Act on Harmful Gases
      The New York Times April 3, 2007

      WASHINGTON, April 2 — In one of its most
      important environmental decisions in years, the
      Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the
      Environmental Protection Agency has the authority
      to regulate heat-trapping gases in automobile
      emissions. The court further ruled that the
      agency could not sidestep its authority to
      regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to
      global climate change unless it could provide a
      scientific basis for its refusal.

      The 5-to-4 decision was a strong rebuke to the
      Bush administration, which has maintained that it
      does not have the right to regulate carbon
      dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the
      Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, it would
      not use the authority. The ruling does not force
      the environmental agency to regulate auto
      emissions, but it would almost certainly face
      further legal action if it failed to do so.

      Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul
      Stevens said the only way the agency could “avoid
      taking further action” now was “if it determines
      that greenhouse gases do not contribute to
      climate change” or provides a good explanation
      why it cannot or will not find out whether they do.

      Beyond the specific context for this case —
      so-called “tailpipe emissions” from cars and
      trucks, which account for about one-fourth of the
      country’s total emissions of heat-trapping gases
      — the decision is likely to have a broader impact
      on the debate over government efforts to address global warming.

      Court cases around the country had been held up
      to await the decision in this case. Among them is
      a challenge to the environmental agency’s refusal
      to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power
      plants, now pending in the federal appeals court
      here. Individual states, led by California, are
      also moving aggressively into what they have seen as a regulatory vacuum.

      Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Anthony M.
      Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and
      Stephen G. Breyer, said that by providing nothing
      more than a “laundry list of reasons not to
      regulate,” the environmental agency had defied
      the Clean Air Act’s “clear statutory command.” He
      said a refusal to regulate could be based only on
      science and “reasoned justification,” adding that
      while the statute left the central determination
      to the “judgment” of the agency’s administrator,
      “the use of the word ‘judgment’ is not a roving
      license to ignore the statutory text.”
      Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of
      Automobile Manufacturers, the main industry trade
      group, said in response to the decision that the
      alliance “looks forward to working constructively
      with both Congress and the administration” in
      addressing the issue. “This decision says that
      the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be
      part of this process,” Mr. McCurdy said.

      News Analysis
      Ruling Undermines Lawsuits Opposing Emissions Controls
      By FELICITY BARRINGER Nick Bunkley contributed reporting from Detroit.
      The New York Times April 3, 2007

      Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on carbon
      dioxide emissions largely shredded the
      underpinning of other lawsuits trying to block
      regulation of the emissions and gave new momentum
      to Congressional efforts to control heat-trapping
      gases linked to climate change.

      Environmental groups and states that have adopted
      controls on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle
      tailpipes responded with jubilation, while the
      auto industry and some of its backers, like
      Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan
      Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and
      Commerce Committee, offered statements of resigned disappointment.

      “This is fantastic news,” said Ian Bowles, the
      secretary of environmental affairs for
      Massachusetts, the state that had petitioned the
      Environmental Protection Agency to control the
      emissions from cars and trucks, which represent
      slightly less than one-quarter of the country’s total heat-trapping gases.

      The E.P.A. had argued that it had no authority to
      do so under the Clean Air Act, and that even if
      it did, such regulation would run afoul of other
      administration plans to combat climate change.
      The Supreme Court rejected those arguments.

      “You’ve seen the Bush administration hiding
      behind this argument to avoid action, and this
      puts that to rest,” Mr. Bowles said.

      Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental
      protection, Kathleen McGinty, added, “We hope it
      means any further opposition and challenge to the
      legal standards will go away and we can get about
      the job of cleaning up the auto fleet and making
      a dent in greenhouse-gas pollution.”

      The arguments rejected by the court have been
      invoked in other legal challenges, including a
      case pending in California in which auto industry
      trade groups argue against that state’s law
      controlling carbon-dioxide emissions from cars,
      and one in the United States Court of Appeals for
      the District of Columbia Circuit, where electric
      utilities are fighting the E.P.A.’s authority to
      regulate their emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

      Both cases had been stayed awaiting yesterday’s ruling.

      Some companies may now find new affection for
      proposals in Congress for a cap-and-trade system
      to aid emissions control. Under this type of
      system, companies that had reduced emissions
      beyond a set limit could sell credits earned by
      their excess reductions to companies that failed to meet emissions limits.

      “This flips the debate from an environment in
      which Congress must act if there is to be federal
      action,” said Tim Profeta, the director of the
      Nicholas Institute for the Environment at Duke
      University, “to one in which the E.P.A. can act
      as soon as an administration friendly to the concept is in power.”

      “If there is a President Clinton or President
      McCain,” Mr. Profeta added, “he or she doesn’t
      have to go to Congress to get action.”

      The reaction from Capitol Hill underscored this point.

      “While I still believe Congress did not intend
      for the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse
      gases, the Supreme Court has made its decision
      and the matter is now settled,” Mr. Dingell said
      in a prepared statement. “Today’s ruling provides
      another compelling reason why Congress must
      enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation.”

      Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and
      a sponsor of the most stringent of the
      global-warming proposals currently before
      Congress, said in a statement: “This decision
      puts the wind at our back. It takes away the
      excuse the administration has been using for not
      taking action to deal with global-warming pollution.”

      Another prod for federal action is the likelihood
      that California will be able to use the new
      ruling to parry legal challenges to its new law
      calling for a cut of nearly 30 percent in carbon
      dioxide emissions on passenger vehicles sold in
      the state starting in 2016. A dozen other states,
      including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York,
      have enacted laws adopting the California
      standard. These states are home to more than a
      third of the vehicles sold in the United States.

      But before those standards can take effect, the
      environmental agency must grant the states a waiver.

      “I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s
      decision today that greenhouse gases are
      pollutants and should be regulated by the federal
      government,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of
      California, a Republican. “We expect the U.S.
      E.P.A. to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver.”

      The prospect of separate state and federal
      emissions standards is one of Detroit’s worst nightmares.

      Walter McManus, director of automotive analysis
      for the Transportation Research Institute at the
      University of Michigan, argued that the
      environmental agency was best suited to regulate
      automotive emissions and fuel economy.

      “They are the ones who really have the expertise
      about fuel economy and greenhouse gases,” Mr. McManus said.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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