Federal Pre-emption - Clean Air Act


State of Alabama v. Volkswagen AG, [Ms. 1170528, Dec. 14, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). This unanimous decision (Wise, J.; Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, and Sellers, JJ., concur) affirms the Jefferson Circuit Court’s order dismissing the State of Alabama’s claims against Volkswagen AG asserting tampering claims and seeking penalties pursuant to the Alabama Environmental Management Act and the Alabama Air Pollution Control Act.

The claims arose from Volkswagen’s tampering with new vehicle emission control systems by installing software designed to alter emissions readings on diesel engines. Ms. *3. The State had limited its claims in order to avoid federal pre-emption to only vehicles registered and licensed in the State of Alabama. Ms. *17. The State had done so because the Clean Air Act expressly preserves the power of a state government to regulate registered or licensed vehicles. Ibid.

Despite the State’s limitation of its claims to vehicles registered or licensed in the State of Alabama, the Court held that “[c]onsidering the unique factual situation involved in this case and based on the reasoning set forth by the MDL court, allowing the State to proceed under Count 2 of the Second Amended Complaint would stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress [as expressed in the Clean Air Act].” Ms. *37.

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