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Washington Watch

Vermont Court Victory A Blow To Automakers, But This Trip Is Far From Over

States Continue Down the Long Road Toward Setting Their Own CAFE Standards

If We Got the Same Amount of Mileage Out of Our Cars as We’ve Gotten Out of this Story, We’d Already Be Off of Foreign Oil

Better World Club has been part of this story since 2002. For the sake of brevity, we’ll give you a very quick recap: In 2002, Better World supported a California law that required automakers to reduce their cars’ emissions by 30% by 2016. Since then, 14 other states have adopted the California standards. BWC was on the Oregon task force which helped develop the regulations controlling auto emissions in that state (AAA did not take a stand on the issue).

Meanwhile, the EPA has refused to rule on whether states are allowed to set their own standards, and the automakers have been suing everybody.

Make sense? No? That’s okay. The latest development marks a victory for the states and life on planet Earth as we know it: Vermont U.S. District Judge William K. Sessions found that automakers had failed to prove that they could not meet the standards, that the standards would endanger drivers, and that Congress had forbidden states from setting their own fuel economy rules. Sessions went on to note, "In light of 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 (greenhouse gas) regulations."

The ruling is a blow to automakers, but they’re not done yet. They still have a suit pending in California. We at Better World Club feel that instead of spending money on lawyers, perhaps the auto industry should be spending it on research and development.

This ruling comes less than six months after a historic Supreme Court decision in early April asserting that the EPA has an obligation to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

Since then, Bush-appointed EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson has appeared before congressional committees on several occasions. Congress has repeatedly asked Johnson when the EPA would be done considering California's request, and Johnson has repeatedly stated that the EPA needs more time.

The most recent excuse given was the need to review 60,000 public comments filed by a June 15 deadline. Of course, according to EPA staffers, 53,000 of the responses were identical comments supporting California - the result of a mass mailing campaign.

The Vermont decision is a landmark victory, but we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. Let’s hope we have enough gas to reach our destination.