WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration improperly created a state-by-state patchwork of auto emissions standards by allowing California to impose its own greenhouse gas rules, a lawyer for business groups told a U.S. appeals court today.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association today asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to revoke a waiver issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that lets California opt for stricter emissions rules than federal standards require.
U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, one of three judges on the panel hearing today’s arguments, questioned whether the auto dealers and the business community could bring a challenge since California has agreed to accept the federal standards for vehicles manufactured from 2012 through 2016.
“There’s nothing in the record about the risk of the possibility of having a non-compliant car in a dealership after 2013,” Garland said.
Paul Clement, the Washington lawyer for the business groups, said, “the real question is one of mootness,” adding that if the court found there was no longer any conflict between the California standards and the federal ones, then California’s waiver must be tossed out.
‘Waiver in 2017’
“California wants a waiver finding on the books because it will make it easier for them to ask for a waiver in 2017,” said Clement, a partner at King & Spalding and U.S. solicitor general in the administration of former President George W. Bush.
The waiver from federal Clean Air Act standards, issued in 2009, encompasses greenhouse gas emissions for vehicles made from 2009 through 2016. Court papers said 13 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt the California standards.
California applied for the waiver in 2005. That request was denied by the agency in 2008, which found California didn’t need the standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary” climate conditions in the state. In 2009, one day after President Barack Obama took office, California asked the EPA to reconsider its denial.
Norman Rave, a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department, said to the judges in court today that the waiver was properly issued because there is a link between California’s pollution problems and global climate change. He said under the Clean Air Act, Congress intended for California to act as a laboratory for innovation in developing new pollution control technologies and techniques.
“Congress has given California considerable deference and allows California broad discretion on how best to address its air pollution problems,” Rave said.
Auto dealers, in court papers, said the standards will limit their ability to keep popular vehicles in stock, especially those with the most powerful engines.
“It creates a cross border problem with no environmental benefit whatsoever,” Andrew Koblenz, vice president and general counsel of the automobile dealers association, said in a telephone interview before the court argument.
During today’s hearing, Clement said the California standards will increase prices for new vehicles by about $1,000 per vehicle. Garland said that the increase cited by Clement would not occur until 2020, which is beyond the period of time in the waiver being considered by the court.