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07/20/79 American Motors v. Barbara Blum

July 20, 1979

AMERICAN MOTORS CORPORATION, PETITIONER

v.

BARBARA BLUM, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, RESPONDENT STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND AUTOMOBILE IMPORTERS OF AMERICA, INC., INTERVENORS 1979.CDC.131



Before WRIGHT, Chief Judge, and MacKINNON and ROBB, Circuit Judges.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Petition for Review of Actions of the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

APPELLATE PANEL:

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge ROBB.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE ROBB

In this case American Motors Corporation attacks a decision by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency which permits the State of California to apply to AMC motor vehicle emission standards more strict than the federal standards promulgated under the Clean Air Act. 42 U.S.C. ยง 7401 Et seq. Specifically AMC complains that the California standards permitted by the Administrator deny to AMC the "lead time" mandated by Congress in section 202(b)(1), 42 U.S.C. 7521(b)(1). We conclude that the Administrator's order must be reversed.

Section 202(a)(1) of the Act directs the Administrator by regulation to prescribe automotive emission standards. Section 202(a)(2) provides that "Any regulation prescribed under paragraph (1) . . . shall take effect after such period as the Administrator finds necessary to permit the development and application of the requisite technology, giving appropriate consideration to the cost of compliance within such period." Section 202(b)(1)provides:

The regulations under subsection (a) of this section applicable to emissions of oxides of nitrogen from light-duty vehicles and engines manufactured during model years 1977 through 1980 shall contain standards which provide that such emissions from such vehicles and engines may not exceed 2.0 grams per vehicle mile. The regulations under subsection (a) of this section applicable to emissions of oxides of nitrogen from light-duty vehicles and engines manufactured during the model year 1981 and thereafter shall contain standards which provide that such emissions from such vehicles and engines may not exceed 1.0 gram per vehicle mile. The Administrator shall prescribe standards in lieu of those required by the preceding sentence, which provide that emissions of oxides of nitrogen may not exceed 2.0 grams per vehicle mile for any light-duty vehicle manufactured during model years 1981 and 1982 by any manufacturer whose production, by corporate identity, for calendar year 1976 was less than three hundred thousand light-duty motor vehicles world-wide if the Administrator determines that

(i) the ability of such manufacturer to meet emission standards in the 1975 and subsequent model years was, and is, primarily dependent upon technology developed by other manufacturers and purchased from such manufacturers; and

(ii) Such manufacturer lacks the financial resources and technological ability to develop such technology. (Emphasis added)

The legislative history discloses that the purpose of the provision in section 202(b)(1)for "standards in lieu of those required by the preceding sentence" was to provide additional "lead time" to small producers who are dependent upon others for necessary technology. The three principal automotive emissions are hydro carbons , carbon monoxide , and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Control of these emissions is achieved by catalytic converters designed to operate simultaneously on all three emissions. The converters are complex electronic devices and their design and development require extensive research, specialized laboratories and highly trained scientists and technicians. Small companies such as AMC that do not have the capacity or facilities for this work are required to buy pollution control devices from other manufacturers. This dependence upon others means that small manufacturers lag behind larger companies in receiving the benefits of the latest technology; they must wait until hardware has been developed and tested by others and must then adapt it to their own vehicles.

The language in section 202(b)(1), relating to small manufacturers, was contained in an amendment sponsored by Senator Nelson. He stated that he understood his amendment would cover only AMC and another small manufacturer, Avanti. 123 Cong.Rec. S9233 (daily ed. June 9, 1977). He explained the purpose of the provision:

It is agreed by everyone without any exception that I know of, that American Motors has a special problem because, unlike the big three automakers, it does not design and build its own pollution control systems. It must purchase this technology from General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler.

Once it has purchased the technology It must modify and adapt the system to its own product line. This ...


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