Last week, the latest round of briefs were filed in the California lawsuit over the state's greenhouse gas auto emissions laws, addressing the impact of Mass v. EPA on the case. (The automobile industry's brief can be found here, and California's is here.)
As we noted back in April, the Supreme Court's ruling breaks for the state in important ways. The state makes a convincing case that the Court has, in properly interpreting the Clean Air Act, given it a great deal of room for action:
[W]hether undertaken by California or EPA, the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act does not conflict with fuel economy regulation under EPCA. It does not matter whether the regulation is adopted by EPA or approved by EPA.The most enjoyable part of the brief (yes, at Warming Law we find federal court filings enjoyable occasionally, and presumably you do, too, or you wouldn't be reading this!) comes when California eviscerates the automakers' argument that the California standards are preempted by foreign policy considerations. Automakers aruge that the state deprives the federal government of a bargaining chip in international negotiations, yet the state's brief persuasively cites the May 4, 2007 draft of the Fourth U.S. Climate Action Report, a report required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That State Department report approvingly cites California's car law as one of many "nonfederal climate change activities that are vital for the success of emission reduction policies."
After Florida decided to follow California's lead, Professor Hari Osofsky raised the important question of how positive state action might play into a broader, necessary international framework to combat global warming. While a more comprehensive framework is obviously needed, state actions-- especially when tied to the international cooperative understandings that states like CA and FL have signed-- do at least prod the nation as a whole in the right direction and increase its standing.
Far from tying the federal government's hands in the international arena, California and the other states that have adopted its car standards, are giving the federal government some sorely needed green cred.