Plaintiffs lawyers will take advantage of new EPA rules, group says

John O'Brien Jun. 22, 2009, 12:37pm


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Legal Newsline) - The federal Environmental Protection Agency's decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles may put small businesses in tricky legal positions, a nonprofit group says.

The Center for Individual Freedom recently submitted a comment to the EPA, urging it to rethink its decision to use the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions. The CFIF says the EPA will be able to classify greenhouse gas emissions in a similar manner lead and mercury are.

That would lead to "opportunistic" plaintiffs lawyers, the group says.

"If unelected bureaucrats at the EPA get their way, every sector of the U.S. economy could be blamed for a wide range of health problems," said Timothy Lee, CFIF's Director of Legal and Public Affairs.

"The new regulation would open a floodgate of unfair and costly litigation aimed at small businesses, farmers, public utilities and nearly every other sector of our economy. Opportunistic plaintiffs' lawyers would come out of the woodwork and pounce on the opportunity to pad their already deep pockets."

The stringent vehicle emissions standards that California Attorney General Jerry Brown has defended would now become the EPA's requirement.

President Barack Obama is using the standards as the basis for the first limit on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles imposed by the Federal Government. For years, Brown and a group of attorneys general have been fighting automakers that argued the standards were preempted Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

"This is an historic agreement that will lead to a 30 percent reduction in motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions nationwide," Brown said. "This agreement brings an end to a five-year legal battle. It means that automakers finally recognize that their future depends on making cleaner and more efficient vehicles."

Motor vehicles manufactured in the U.S. must reach a fleetwide standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Brown had attempted to earn a waiver that allowed other states to adopt them, but auto makers argued that wasn't fair. The Bush Administration refused to grant it in 2007, and despite this 14 other states chose to abide by California's rules.

The issue came up in several courts, and Brown helped the states of Vermont, Rhode Island and New Mexico defend themselves.

The CFIF wants the public comment period on the proposed regulation extended from 60 to 120 days. It says its activists have sent 50,000 letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

"Our leaders in Washington need to understand that EPA's public health ruling will only further the economic hardship small businesses and hard working American's are currently facing," Lee said.

The CFIF's mission statement says it is dedicated to preserving the individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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