Automakers Lose California Global Warming Lawsuit - A Short-Lived Victory?

And just like that it's over, kind of.

After years of effectively blocking California's 2002 law calling for strict new greenhouse gas emissions standards for all new vehicles, a lawsuit filed against the State by major automakers was thrown out of court yesterday.

Federal district court Judge Anthony Ishii issued a strong rebuke to the automobile industry’s attempt to derail the California Clean Car program that would reduce global warming pollution from motor vehicles.

At the heart of the lawsuit was whether the State of California has the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas as a pollutant, and if considered a pollutant whether California was superseding the authority of the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For a comprehensive backgrounder on this lawsuit go here.

The first breakthrough came in April of this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are air pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

The final hurdle now is the question of whether California has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases in their State. And here's the rub - in order for California to have such authority it must receive a waiver from the federal government's (read: George W Bush) Environmental Protection Agency.

The application for this waiver was submitted over 2 years ago, and the head of the EPA, Stephen Johnson, has committed to making a final decision by the end of this year (17 days and counting).

In a recent online forum, Johnson stated that the:

EPA is following the legally mandated process for evaluating California's petition and doing so in an expeditious yet responsible way. My commitment to Governor Schwarzenegger is to finish the analysis and make a decision by the end of the year.”

The EPA waiver is President Bush's last stand and while their is a sense of optimism right now, a sober second look at the situation leads me the believe that this latest victory may be short-lived.

Sources tapped into the State government are telling me that the office of California's Attorney General is hard at work already planning their legal options once the EPA denies the waiver. Watch for a flurry of court activity almost immediately after the decision, with California trying to get a quick decision from a judge that will allow them to implement the law in time for 2009.

The formal decision announced yesterday can be found here (pdf) and I've also attached it to the end of this post.

PDF icon 12.12.07_Pavley_Ruling.pdf284.75 KB