Clean Cars Campaign


Chamber-NADA Lawsuit

California Waiver Lawsuits

Legal Attacks on State Authority

Current State Cases

Resolved State Cases

Further Insight

U.S. Supreme Court

Court Action

This page recounts the history of the legal battles involving clean cars in California and many other states.

Chamber-NADA Lawsuit

While opponents of clean car standards have failed in every legal attack to date, they apparently haven't learned their lesson. In September 2009, the National Automobile Dealers Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review EPA's decision to grant California's waiver to implement its clean cars law. (Vehicle manufacturers are precluded from pursuing legal action under the agreement brokered by the White House.) This section documents milestones in this legal proceeding.

April 29, 2011 – A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of a waiver allowing California to implement its clean car standards, which have been adopted in 13 more states and the District of Columbia.

December 10, 2010 – The court schedules oral arguments for January 18, 2011.

October 15, 2010Petitioners' reply brief

September 16, 2010Amici briefs by car dealers

September 16, 2010Former EPA administrators' amicus brief

September 16, 2010State and environmental intervenors brief

September 15, 2010Amici briefs of climate scientists

August 26, 2010 – EPA briefs in defense of waiver

July 1, 2010Pacific Legal Foundation amicus brief

June 25, 2010US. Chamber, NADA opening brief

October 9, 2009 – In separate motions, California and 18 states filed motions to intervene in support of U.S. EPA in a lawsuit filed against EPA by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Automobile Dealers Association. The 18 states that joined in one motion are: New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. California separately moved to intervene.

October 8, 2009 – Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Environment California filed a motion to intervene in support of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a lawsuit filed against EPA by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Automobile Dealers Association.

September 10, 2009NADA and U.S. Chamber file lawsuit against EPA seeking to overturn its Clean Cars waiver decision.

California Waiver Lawsuits

In January 2008 California and 18 states — plus five environmental organizations — asked the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals to reverse the December 19, 2007 U.S. EPA decision denying California a waiver to implement its Clean Cars law. The court on July 25 dismissed the petition.

In May 2008 California plus 38 environmental organizations and 17 states filed petitions in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the EPA's December 2007 waiver denial.

Track the court action and download briefs and other court documents.

Legal Attacks on State Authority

Automakers have sued to block states from implementing the Clean Cars law, challenging state authority under the Clean Air Act. Under the historic Rose Garden agreement between President Obama, the automakers, and California, signed in May 2009, the auto manufacturers promised to drop their lawsuits against states in exchange for implementation of a single national vehicle standard.

Current State Cases

New Mexico

In April 2008, a group of auto dealers filed suit in U.S. District Court against the State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque, seeking to block implementation of the Clean Cars law. The state is expected to answer the complaint in May or June 2008.

Meanwhile, four state legislators and some businesses filed suit in state court. The case is currently mired in procedural maneuvers involving which court – District Court or Court of Appeals – should be assigned the case. Within a week after the federal government adopted the national GHG and fuel economy standards on April 1, 2010, the lawsuits had been dismissed.

Resolved State Cases


On December 7, 2004, the major automakers filed lawsuits in state and federal court in Fresno to block California from implementing its landmark vehicle global warming pollution regulation. On December 11, 2007, U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii rejected the claims of the automakers and dismissed the lawsuit. On June 24, 2008 Judge Ishii denied another automaker request for injunction. Read the Judge's order. On October 30, 2008, the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn Judge Ishii's decision.

In the original lawsuit, thirteen Central Valley car dealers joined the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and others, as plaintiffs.

The trial, originally scheduled for January 2007, had been delayed pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

Two groups of environmental organizations were intervenors in support of the defendant: the California Air Resources Board. Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense joined as one intervenor. Bluewater Network, Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network joined as another intervenor. Intervening on behalf of the plaintiffs was the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and other foreign carmakers.

To learn more about the California case and to download court documents visit the California Clean Cars Campaign.


In Maine, the Kennebec County Superior court has denied a request by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to stay Maine's new clean car standards. The court also refused to send the matter back to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) for reconsideration.

Rhode Island

December 10, 2008 – Automakers appeal a U.S. district judge's dismissal of their challenge to Rhode Island's Clean Cars rule.

November 25, 2008 – The U.S. Federal District Court for Rhode Island dismisses automakers' lawsuit seeking to block the Clean Cars Law, calling the carmakers' attempts to bring successive lawsuits "costly and vexatious" and a "waste of judicial resources."
Judge's Order
Conservation Law Foundation news release
NRDC news release

Throughout spring 2008, parties in the Rhode Island case have submitted briefs on the issue of “res judicata,” which means the case has already been tried and therefore should not be tried again. Lawyers for the state and environmental advocates argue that, given the U.S. District Court decisions against the automakers in California and Vermont, there is no need or reason for this case to go forward in Rhode Island. A ruling is expected in summer 2008.

On December 21, 2007, a federal judge in Rhode Island ruled that an automaker challenge to that state’s vehicle global warming pollution law can go forward. Read the judge’s order.

April 7, 2010 – Lawsuits and appeals were pending in the 1st, 2nd and 9th Circuit Courts, and state cases were pending in California and New Mexico. As of this date, dismissals were filed in all but the New Mexico court, which was pending.
Read the press release issued by Rhode Island's attorney general.


In November 2005, automakers sued in federal district court to block Vermont from implementing its Clean Cars law. The trial opened on April 10, 2007 in Burlington, Judge William Sessions presiding. On September 12, 2007, Judge Sessions ruled against the automakers and for the states of Vermont and New York and environmental groups. The decision opens the way toward implementation of California’s vehicle global warming pollution standards in Vermont. Read the court decision.


Public interest groups including Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group intervened in the Vermont case. Also intervening was the Burlington Free Press. The newspaper challenged an auto industry motion to seal certain testimony and bar access to the courtroom during portions of the trial that the industry claims involves trade secrets.

Read news coverage of the trial.

Here are some of the relevant court documents:

Further Insight on Legal Arguments