Chalk up another victory to the states in their ongoing battle with the federal government over regulation of GHG emissions from motor vehicles. On Wednesday, District Court Judge William Sessions determined that the GHG regulations first enacted by California and later adopted by Vermont are not preempted by federal law.
In a massive, 240-page opinion following trial, the Court roundly rejected the automobile industry's challenges under various preemption theories. In particular, the Court held that: (1) California's regulations were not expressly preempted by either Section 209(b) of the federal Clean Air Act or the fuel economy standards of the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act; (2) federal law does not "occupy the field" of regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles; (3) the regulations do not sufficiently "conflict" with federal laws to warrant preemption; and (4) the regulations do not intrude upon or conflict with national foreign policy.
Conflict preemption was the primary focus of both the trial and the opinion. At trial, the automobile industry attempted to prove that the state regulations stood as an obstacle to EPCA's objectives and purposes by demonstrating that the regulations were technologically and economically infeasible. The Court was not persuaded: "In light of the the public statements of industry representatives, history of compliance with previous technological challenges, and the state of the record, the Court remains unconvinced automakers cannot meet the challenges of Vermont and California's GHG regulations."
The opinion can be found here: http://www.vtd.uscourts.gov/Cases/05cv302.html
Brett S. Henrikson, Esq.
Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp, LLP
Steuart Tower, Suite 2700
San Francisco, CA 94105