The media chalked it up as a victory for the global-warming alarmists. The Wall Street Journal claimed a federal court decision giving states the authority to regulate automobile emissions would have “nationwide ripples.” However, it appears to just be another example of a judge legislating from the bench.
“Environmentalists are calling the ruling momentous,” said NBC chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson on the September 12 “Nightly News.” “A federal judge in Vermont says that states can regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles in order to reduce global warming.”
But before this ruling is established as precedent and set in stone, it is important to note the presiding federal judge has a “liberal” track record. And at least one of his so-called precedent-setting rulings was overturned on appeal.
According to a story by Harry Stoffer printed in the April 30 issue of “Automotive News,” Judge William K. Sessions has a “liberal pedigree.”
“In 1992, Sessions managed the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. In the 2005-06 congressional session, the League of Conservation Voters gave Leahy's voting record a 100 percent rating,” wrote Stoffer. “By contrast, the National Association of Manufacturers gave Leahy a 21 percent score.”
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a non-profit organization whose “mission is to advocate for sound environmental policies and to elect pro-environmental candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.” The home page of their Web site states “Green is the new red, white and blue.”
Clinton appointed Sessions to the federal district court in Vermont in 1995, and he has been the chief judge of the district of Vermont since 2002. Sessions also taught at the Vermont Law School from 1978 to 1995, a school that “calls itself a leader in environmental and public interest law,” according to Stoffer.
Sessions also took a highly controversial left-wing stance on capital punishment in 2002.
“[H]e ruled in 2002 that the federal death penalty is unconstitutional,” Stoffer wrote. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Sessions’s ruling in 2004.
Experts have said the latest ruling could have its problems, too.
Patrick A. Parenteau, a law professor at the University of Vermont, told The New York Times “that the decision might have jumped the gun, legally speaking, because the Vermont rules, pending the E.P.A. ruling on a waiver, have not yet taken effect.”
“An appeals court could rule that Judge Sessions was premature in deciding the case — in legal parlance, that it was not ripe,” Felicity Barringer said in the September 13 New York Times.
A speedy ruling on this lawsuit – while similar lawsuits filed by the automakers in Rhode Island and California are pending – could have an impact on increased environmental regulations in the name of global warming.
“[U].S. Judge William Sessions in Vermont has ruled first, in a decision that could affect the others,” James R. Healey wrote in the September 13 USA Today.
Sessions said he based his ruling on the belief that manufacturers could build cleaner cars if they wanted to and an earlier Supreme Court ruling.
“The Supreme Court recognized for the first time the phenomenon of global warming and its potentially catastrophic effects upon our environment," Sessions said in his decision, according to the September 13 Los Angeles Times.
The automakers sued with the argument that state governments did not have the authority to regulate emissions.
“Because the only way to cut CO2 emissions is to burn less fuel, car companies say the ruling improperly allows states — not just the federal government — to set fuel-economy standards,” wrote Healey.
Kevin Holewinski, a Washington-based lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal that Vermont was overstepping its authority, because the law amounts to a state fuel-economy mandate even if it curbs greenhouse-gas emissions.
“Suggesting that there are these collateral consequences, I think, quite frankly, is wholly beside the point,” Holewinski said.