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Chamber of Commerce and Auto Dealer Group Lose Last-Gasp Lawsuit to Stop Clean Cars

David Doniger

Posted April 29, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming

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The federal court of appeals in Washington today rejected the last legal attack on California’s landmark greenhouse gas standards for new cars built in model years 2012-16. 

The National Automobile Dealers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sought to overturn EPA’s waiver giving California the green light to set its greenhouse gas standards.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson granted California the waiver in June 2009, reversing her predecessor’s unprecedented attempt to block California’s program.   

The appeals court ruled that neither NADA nor the Chamber had demonstrated injury necessary to support their standing.  NADA had submitted standing affidavits from two dealers that the Court found failed to prove they are suffering any economic injuries.  The Chamber – which stridently opposes all of EPA’s steps to safeguard us from dangerous carbon pollution – demonstrated no injury at all.

NRDC joined in the case with California and others as intervenors on EPA’s side.

The NADA-Chamber lawsuit to stop California was largely a political side-show.  In 2009, President Obama announced a Clean Car Peace Treaty bringing automobile manufacturers, auto workers, states, and environmentalists together around a set of national greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards based on California’s example.  The clean car accord will cut new vehicles’ carbon pollution by 30 percent, reduce U.S. oil use by 1.8 billion barrels, and save new car buyers $3000 at the gas pump.  Consumer savings – calculated when gas cost only $2.61/gallon – will actually be much larger at today’s gas prices. 

The dealer association and the Chamber have made no friends by messing with clean car standards that the car makers now support.  But they are soldiering on anyway in a second lawsuit against the federal standards.  That attack is no more likely to succeed. 

Looking to the future, California and the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are working on a second round of clean car standards that will extend through 2025.  NRDC is urging them to set strong standards that raise fuel economy to 60 miles per gallon and cut carbon pollution by another 40 percent.  Standards at these levels would save billions more barrels of oil and more than double drivers’ savings at the pump. 

Auto makers such as Ford, and real on-the-ground car dealers, are earning money again and looking at a bright future because they are building and selling cleaner cars under the California and federal standards.  It's time for the Chamber and the national dealers association to get out of their way. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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