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American Auto. Mfrs. Ass'n v. Cahill

Citation: 28 ELR 20092
No. 97-CV-444 (LEK/DNH), 973 F. Supp. 288/(N.D.N.Y., 08/05/1997)

A district court holds that the Clean Air Act (CAA) does not preempt New York's zero emission vehicle (ZEV) sales mandate and dismisses an action brought by automobile manufacturers seeking to enjoin the state from enforcing legislation that requires the sale of ZEVs beginning in the 1998 model year. The court first holds that the statute of limitations does not bar the manufacturers' claim. The manufacturers had three years from the date California changed its policy regarding the ZEV sales requirement, which was on March 28, 1996, to file their civil rights actions. Therefore, the action was commenced in a timely manner. The court then holds that it has jurisdiction to hear the manufacturers' claims. Next, the court holds that the state's request to dismiss the manufacturers' entire complaint on res judicata grounds is inappropriate. The action before the court, while certainly similar to the earlier actions, is not identical. The issue of whether or not New York must be found by a change in the California ZEV sales mandate was not before nor could have been before the court during the prior action. However, the court then holds that the manufacturers' claim under CAA § 249 is precluded by the doctrine of res judicata. The issue of whether or not New York's ZEV sales mandate violated the CAA was the subject of two appeals and five published opinions. While this theory may not have been relied on in those actions, it is a theory involving issues that were or could have been raised in the earlier actions. The court next holds that the doctrine of res judicata does not apply to the manufacturers' claim that the ZEV regulations violate their right to Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because the manufacturers did not have enough information to bring a Due Process claim in the earlier action. On its own initiative, however, the court dismisses the manufacturers' Due Process claim on standing grounds. The manufacturers' Due Process claim is premature, because they have not yet sustained an injury. The court then holds that the manufacturers' U.S. Commerce Clause claim is barred by res judicata, because the issue of the validity of the ZEV sales requirement was thoroughly addressed in the prior litigation. The manufacturers had the option of bringing a Commerce Clause challenge in the earlier action but chose not to do so.

Next, the court holds that the state is not judicially estopped from asserting that the ZEV mandate is an enforcement mechanism. The court then holds that the sales mandate is an enforcement procedure and not an emission standard under CAA §§ 209 and 177. It does not set forth numerical limitations on pollutants and its primary function is to force the development of ZEV technology. As a result, the ZEV sales mandate does not run afoul of CAA § 209. And because it is not a standard, the ZEV sales mandate is not required to be identical to the California standards and, therefore, does not conflict with the first subsection of CAA § 177. Last, the court holds that the CAA does not impliedly preempt the state's sales mandate, because New York is not requiring different ZEVs than those sold in California. Thus, there is no conflict with the CAA, expressed or implied.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Philip A. Lacovara
Mayer, Brown & Platt
1675 Broadway, New York NY 10019
(212) 506-2500

Counsel for Defendants
John J. Sipos, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330