Vermont’s auto emissions ruling could have impact in other states

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(Host) A ruling by a federal judge in Vermont upholding the state’s auto emission standards could have a significant impact in other states, where manufacturers are challenging the more stringent rules.

VPR’s Sarah Ashworth has more.

(Ashworth) Vermont is one of thirteen states that has adopted California’s auto emission standards, which go beyond the federal requirements. Because a lawsuit against the standards has been delayed in California, Vermont became the first state to be tested in a suit filed by the auto industry asking that the regulations be struck down.

In a ruling last week, federal court judge William Sessions declared the standards were legal. Director of UCLA’s Environmental Law Center, Stephen Hecht, says Vermont’s ruling may have a significant impact on California’s case.

(Hecht) "It appears to be extremely thorough and well-reasoned and I think that the air resources board and the attorney general’s office here are seeing the case as really being quite potentially influential on the case here in terms of steering the judge in the California case in a particular direction."

(Ashworth) Hecht says when the California case does come to trial, it’s likely the evidence will be similar to what was presented in Vermont.

Detroit-based auto industry analyst Paul Eistenstein says both domestic and foreign manufacturers are joining to fight the state’s efforts. He says it will likely take several years for the challenges to play out in the courts. In the end, he says, if individual states set their own emission standards, it could mean states like Vermont with more stringent requirements may see a smaller variety of vehicles available for sale.

(Eisenstein) "I don’t mean to parrot the industry’s position, but the reality is, depending on how the rules are written, it may limit consumer choice in some markets."

(Ashworth) If the day comes it could be far off. The Vermont Attorney general’s office expects the auto manufacturers to appeal judge Sessions’ decision within 30 days.

Even then, the EPA must still sign off on California’s emission standards, before they can take effect in Vermont.

For VPR News, I’m Sarah Ashworth.

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