I’ll Need Some Popcorn for this Fight


Wait until Democrats start making a stink when they realize bailout money is going to lawyers for the automakers who are suing to stop the new emissions laws. From the “Wheels” blog at

Bernie Madoff had a bail hearing that same day, so it’s not surprising that coverage was sparse for the oral arguments in the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals case, pitting automakers against the state of Vermont, et al.

California, whose emissions standards are much tougher than the federal alternative, adopted rules to regulate greenhouse gas from tailpipes in 2005. Vermont is one of at least 13 states, representing about 40 percent of the car market, which opted to follow its lead. Angered automakers took the states to federal court in California, Vermont and Rhode Island. They have been repeatedly rebuffed in these legal proceedings; hence the appeals and the March 19 oral arguments in Manhattan.

Steve Hinchman is a lawyer at the Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation, one of four environmental intervenors in the case. “This is the first of three appellate cases automakers are trying to bring to block the state standards,” Mr. Hinchman said. “It’s a full-court press to try and stop states from using their long-established Clean Air Act authority to require cleaner cars.”

Mr. Hinchman criticized “industry lawyers who are telling the courts that they can’t afford to build cleaner, better cars. That’s the exact opposite of what their lobbyists are telling Congress and the American public.”

Kathleen M. Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, attorney for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 11 carmakers, declined to comment on the case, other than to confirm that oral arguments were heard before a three-judge federal panel last week.

But the automakers have made clear that they’re trying to avoid being regulated by what they call a “patchwork” of laws. According to Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance: “Our position has always been that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act prohibits states from setting their own fuel economy standards. And because measuring fuel economy actually begins as grams of carbon dioxide per mile, whether or not California’s regulations are tallied in grams per mile of carbon dioxide or miles per gallon, they are effectively fuel economy standards. And they should be preempted under federal law.”

Maybe Congress will invent a new tax on the revenues generated by attorneys who take fees from bailed-out companies?


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