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Vermont tailpipe ruling seen as victory in states battle with auto industry

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Source: Axcess News

(AXcess News) Houston - A state-led effort by California to force the EPA to either regulate greenhouse gas emissions from autos or permit states to do it won out Wednesday in Court and is seen as victory in the battle being led by Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger against the Bush administration.

'The Vermont decision marks another important victory in the fight against global warming,' Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger told reporters.

Gov. Schwarzenegger together with California Attorney General Jerry Brown gave the Bush administration until the end of next month to give the state a federal waiver to enact stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for automakers following a  landmark greenhouse gas law California lawmakers passed in 2002 that requires automakers to gradually reduce emissions starting with the 2009 model year.  But in order to enact that law, Schwarzenegger needs the federal waiver and has threatened to sue if they don't get it.

Other states copied California's auto emissions law and in Vermont, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that states have the legal right to impose tailpipe emissions standards to reduce greenhouse gases.

Automakers have fought hard to resist Schwarzenegger's drive to curb auto emissions and force them to comply.  Their only trump card left has been the Bush administration.  In a statement released by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers following the Vermont court ruling, David McCurdy, its spokesman said, 'It makes sense that only the federal government can regulate fuel economy.  Federal law is place to ensure that consistency nationally.'

In a 240-page ruling. U.S. District Judge William Sessions of Vermont dismissed automaker complaints, citing the industry's track record of claiming regulations cannot be met.

Judge Sessions, a Clinton appointee wrote, 'In each case the industry responded with technological advancements designed to meet the standards.'

A separate federal case in California was put on hold, with a ruling pending after the Court saw how it played out in Vermont.

But in the past, the automakers saw an out in that the federal government had never recognized greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant to be regulated, though that change in April when the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases can be regulated as an air pollutant - contrary to the automakers' argument, which was supported by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But President Bush, who has long been an outspoken ally of the U.S. auto industry, can veto it all, and force California through a lengthy legal battle that ultimately it will win, but not for a long time to come, giving the auto industry time to engineer and manufacture more environmentally friendly vehicles.

Critics of the auto industry have said Detroit is lazy and has fought change for far too long while foreign automakers have passed them by with more fuel efficient vehicles that have cost them market share they can only hope to win back.  Wall Street too is growing impatient with General Motors and Ford and want the companies to both resolve labor issues and also develop a more stream lined drawing-board-to-production competitive vehicle if they expect to keep dipping into the money pot.

 

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