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California Tailpipe Emissions Law Upheld in Federal Court

FRESNO, California, December 12, 2007 (ENS) – A federal district judge today upheld a 2002 California law that regulates the emission of greenhouse gases from the tailpipes of cars and trucks. The California emissions standard requires a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by 2016. The reduction would be phased in gradually starting with model year 2009.

Sitting in Fresno, Judge Anthony Ishii ruled against an automobile industry challenge to the law brought by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes most of the major car companies.

Judge Ishii rejected the automakers’ claim that U.S. foreign policy and federal fuel economy laws preempt state authority to curb emissions.

He also ruled that if California’s motor vehicle regulations are approved by by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, enforcement of the regulations will be consistent with federal law.

“This is the fourth major legal victory for California and a stinging rejection of the automobile industry’s legal challenge to greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.

“This court ruling leaves the Bush administration as the last remaining roadblock to California’s regulation of tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions,” Brown said.

On December 21, 2005 California submitted to the EPA a waiver request for the state’s Clean Car program which has been pending ever since.
Car exhaust contributes to global warming, smog and acid rain.

The EPA’s waiver of federal preemption under the Clean Air Act is the last step before the California regulation can be adopted not only in California but in 16 other states that have passed similar legislation.

Judge Ishii wrote, “Given the level of impairment of human health and welfare that current climate science indicates may occur if human-generated greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, it would be the very definition of folly if EPA were precluded from action.”

The EPA has granted such waiver requests some 53 times over the last 40 years and has never refused such a request.

Alliance chief executive Dave McCurdy said the organization is considering an appeal of Judge Ishii’s ruling.

“We can all agree that higher fuel economy is important, but the issue here was about federal fuel economy law,” said McCurdy today. “Under federal law, only the federal government can set fuel economy standards for all 50 states. We need a consistent national policy for fuel economy, and this nationwide policy cannot be written by a single state or group of states – only by the federal government.”

“In fact, the federal government has taken action, raising fuel economy standards for seven straight years,” he said. “Just in the last week, Congressional leaders have agreed on a new national fuel economy standard that will aggressively raise fuel economy standards for the next 12 years.

McCurdy said that automakers are acting on their own to curb emissions. “Automakers are now selling a range of fuel-efficient technologies, such as hybrids, diesel and cylinder deactivation that save gas and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and autos with these technologies are now on sale on dealers’ lots,” he said.

Environmental groups were delighted with the ruling. “This is a huge win for clean air and a cooler planet. Judge Ishii’s opinion leaves no doubt that the EPA must act now to pave the way for the innovative clean car programs being advanced by California and 16 other states across the nation,” said Vickie Patton, senior attorney with Environmental Defense, a defendant-intervener in the case.

The public too is behind the California Clean Car law. About 98,000 comments were submitted in response to EPA’s request for comment on the waiver, and most were supportive of the waiver. Only one individual automobile manufacturer and some automobile trade associations submitted negative comments.

The Bush administration has said that it will issue a decision by the end of this month.

“EPA Administrator Steve Johnson should immediately grant California’s request to move ahead with this program,” said Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp. “All similar California air pollution requests have been approved. Not one has been turned down in EPA history.”

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