Chamber of Commerce Files Suit to Block Emissions Standards

September 11, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The National Automobile Dealers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have filed a lawsuit challenging California’s right to set higher automobile emissions standards than the federal limits.

It’s a move that surprises no one, and it will probably have little influence in the near-term. But it does set the wheels in motion for what’s likely to be a long series of lawsuits from the Chamber of Commerce against any and all emissions regulations.

The EPA granted California the waiver in June, a reversal of a Bush-era decision against letting the state set its own, tougher tailpipe standards. California has historically been granted waiver requests, and its higher standards have often prompted stronger federal standards.

This case is no exception; earlier this year, the Obama administration announced that it would be crafting new federal standards that unified California’s rules, EPA emission standards and the Department of Transportation’s fuel economy standards, and bring cars up to an average of 39 miles per gallon by 2016. The new rules were announced, but they are not expected to be finalized until March 2010.

While auto dealers are against granting California a waiver, automakers have supported it. They’ve long called for a single federal standard, and supported the new rules announced in May. “We share the goals of Congress and the administration on this issue and intend to honor our commitment,” Charles Territo, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told TWI.

While the lawsuit probably won’t affect the pending auto rules, it is intended to prevent California from setting tougher standards again in the future.

“As California tries to take the lead in dealing with global warming, I expect that in the future they will come in with stronger rules,” Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, told TWI. It’s also a signal of what to expect from the Chamber as the EPA moves to regulate other sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

“This is the first of what I expect will be many suits from the Chamber of Commerce on every EPA action to do anything on climate,” said O’Donnell. “This is warning shot that the Chamber of Commerce is going to war on any front it can.”