States’ rights and global warming

In a blow to the auto industry, US Judge William K. Sessions III ruled Sept. 12 that the state of Vermont can set limits on car emissions that contribute to global warming, rejecting arguments that only the federal government can regulate the industry. The EPA has so far refused to demand a curb in emissions linked to global warming. In 2002, California passed a law requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 22% by 2012, and 30% by 2016. Vermont followed suit with its own such law in 2005, as have a handful of other states. Automakers took the individual states to court, arguing that the laws usurpsed federal authority. But Sessions wrote: “The regulation does not impermissibly intrude upon the foreign affairs prerogatives of the president and Congress of the United States.”

Vermont’s Republican Gov. Jim Douglas praised the ruling, saying: “Most of Vermont’s greenhouse gases are emitted by automobiles and for us to significantly reduce our carbon footprint the innovations that occur in states like Vermont are critical. Setting high, but achievable, standards for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles is a tool every state must have the option of employing. Now, thanks to our victory, every state will.”

Dave McCurdy, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said that automakers “support improving fuel economy standards nationally, rather than piecemeal. The alliance will continue studying the decision and considering the options, including an appeal.” (AFP, NYT, Sept. 13)

Nice to see Republicans like Douglas and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger on the side of progress for a change. The Governator, however, seems to be missing the big picture—he supports states’ rights when it comes to standing up to Detroit, but not to Bush and his war. On Sept. 11, he vetoed legislation to put a ballot measure before California voters asking if they want to withdraw US troops from Iraq. Schwarzenegger said the question is a federal issue, not state. (AP, Sept. 12)

Apart from the obvious double standard, Arnold seems not to have made the connectionoil is the critical link between war and climate change. Vermonters, fortunately, do seem to be making the connection. As we have noted, Vermont has witnessed a grassroots groundswell over the past few years, with many municipalities signing on to statements calling for a return of US troops from Iraq or impeachment proceedings against Bush for starting an illegal war.

See our last posts on global climate change, the gas-guzzler lobby and the anti-war effort.