WASHINGTON - Car dealers and automakers have joined other heavy-hitters of the business world in trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to kill an EPA plan for cleaner air.
Lawyers say it is the most important high-court environmental case in a decade or more.
The justices on Tuesday, Nov. 7, will hear two hours of oral arguments over whether the EPA exceeded its authority in 1997 when it set sharply lower limits on the smog and soot that communities can allow in the air that their residents breathe.
The limits, if they take effect, could force communities to curb emissions from factory smokestacks, automotive repair shops and vehicle tailpipes - among many pollution sources.
A broad coalition of businesses and some states got a federal circuit court to block the rules in 1999. EPA Administrator Carol Browner this year asked the Supreme Court to reinstate them.
While there is disagreement over whether tougher smog and soot standards are needed for public health, the key legal issue before the Supreme Court is whether the EPA followed proper procedures.
Doug Greenhaus, director of environment, health and safety for the National Automobile Dealers Association, a party to the case, said the EPA's decision-making process 'was not quite a flip of the coin but more like throwing darts at a board, perhaps.'
He said the public and regulated businesses 'have a right to understand how the government is making very, very important decisions with extreme consequences, economic and otherwise.'
'It's going to be the environmental case of the decade,' said Julie Becker, assistant general counsel for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, another party to the case, representing 13 automakers.
The case does not have a direct impact on newly adopted tailpipe emission rules, which automakers generally supported and which take effect with the 2004-09 models.