May 1, 2011
No Backdoor Standing to Challenge Emissions Waiver
The D.C. Circuit ruled on Friday that the Chamber of Commerce and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) lacked associational standing to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to block its waiver of greenhouse gas emissions standards to California and other states. The court thus dismissed the case.
The plaintiffs' petition challenged the EPA's waiver, which allowed California and other states to adopt and enforce greenhouse gas emissions standards that exceeded the EPA's own standards. (The Clean Air Act prohibits states from adopting more restrictive standards but allows the EPA to grant waivers.)
But last April, the EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration jointly issued a national program of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for marketing years 2012 through 2016. The standards grew out of an agreement with the agencies, the State of California, and major automobile manufacturers. Under the agreement, California amended its regulations to deem compliance with the national standards compliance with its own standards for these years. (For years 2009 through 2011, California adjusted its standards to make compliance somewhat easier.)
As a condition of the agreement, major auto manufacturers and their trade associations agreed not to sue to contest the new national standards or the California waiver.
But that agreement (alone) didn't stop the Chamber of Commerce and NADA to challenge the regs and waiver on behalf of auto dealers.
The D.C. Circuit nevertheless ruled that they lacked standing. (The Chamber failed to allege that one of its members was affected and therefore lacked associational standing. NADA, however, identified allegedly injured members.) As to the years 2009 through 2011, the court ruled that the NADA failed to alleged with sufficient determinacy that manufacturers would adjust the "mix" of vehicles offered to dealers in waived states (thus affecting the dealers' sales) and that manufacturers would necessarily raise the price of vehicles (also affecting sales). Part of NADA's problem was that Ford planned to raise its emissions standards on its own, even before the EPA granted California's waiver, thus undercutting any causation and redressibility. (The two dealers that provided affidavits in support of standing sold Ford cars.)
As to years 2012 through 2016, the court wrote that Ford planned to up its own standards, independent of federal regulation, and that the case was moot. Why moot? Because starting in 2012, manufacturers will have to comply with federal standards, and compliance with those standards will also satisfy California under the 2010 agreement. In other words, manufacturers will have to meet the federal standards, anyway, and their meeting the exact same California standards cannot possible harm dealers.
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