Judge postpones trial challenging state authority to regulate auto emissions

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(Host) A federal judge has postponed a trial that challenges Vermont’s authority to regulate automobile emissions.
During a hearing this afternoon, U.S. District Judge William Sessions said he first had to decide how much of the case will be open to the media and the public.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The case is about Vermont’s attempt to set new emissions standards for automobiles. Vermont wants to control greenhouse gas pollution. The industry says the state can’t do that, and it filed suit in federal court to stop the new rules.

But before that question can be reached, Judge William Sessions has to determine how much of the trial – and the technical testimony – will be public.

The auto industry says some of its testimony has to be kept confidential because it involves trade secrets. But the Burlington Free Press asked to intervene in the case. The newspaper argues that it has a First Amendment right to cover the case in open court.

Judge Sessions had tough questions for industry lawyer Andrew Clubok. The judge suggested that the car companies may have waived some of their right to secrecy.

The judge said “You’re making a strong argument that you will be financially devastated by the regulation. When you make that argument, you open it up for them to say ‘prove it to us’.”

And Sessions pressed the state and a lawyer for the Free Press for suggestions on how the court should weigh the right to cover an open trial, versus the industry’s right to keep its business plans secret.

Judge Sessions said he’d have a ruling by Friday. He said that should give both sides a chance to appeal before the full trial starts in two weeks.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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