Government Fleet Top News

California Sues Feds Over Emissions

November 15, 2007

SACRAMENTO, CA – California has sued the federal government to force a decision on the state’s request to enforce tough new rules aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, according to the Web site The lawsuit ups the ante in the showdown between Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Bush administration over a state law that forces automakers to adopt new technology beginning with the 2009-model year.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is arguing that there should be one federal standard for tailpipe emissions and has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Fresno to block the new rules.

California’s lawsuit accuses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of unreasonably delaying action on the state’s request for a waiver that would allow it to adopt the rules. The request was filed in December 2005. However the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C., would become irrelevant if EPA Chief Stephen Johnson makes a decision soon.

The agency has typically approved such waivers for California, but if they don’t approve this one, Schwarzenegger promised to go to court again.

The federal government holds the power to set national air pollution regulations. But the Clean Air Act gives California the right to adopt its own rules — as long as the EPA gives its stamp of approval through a waiver. The state has been asking for waivers since 1969 and has had more than 40 partially or fully approved, according to the state Air Resources Board. But this is the first time the state has tried to adopt regulations to control greenhouse gases. The gases don’t directly produce smog, but contribute to global warming, which can wreak havoc with the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the Fresno Bee.

If California succeeds, other states also may act. At least 14 states are poised to follow, according to California’s lawsuit. If the new rules are adopted in all 14 states, it would be the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road by 2020, Schwarzenegger said.

The state’s Air Resources Board estimates the upgrades would boost the price of a car by about $300. But automakers peg the cost at around $3,000 per car and say that not all cars could be upgraded, especially larger ones.

The new regulations, called for in a law passed in 2002, would be phased in over several years, beginning with model-year 2009. By 2016, an automaker’s fleet on average must produce 30-percent fewer greenhouse gases than it does today, according to the Fresno Bee. The lawsuit asks the EPA to act on the waiver now because manufacturers will begin marketing 2009 cars as early as January 2008.

The vehicle regulations are considered a key pathway to attain aggressive greenhouse gas targets set by another law passed last year that calls for a cut in the state’s overall greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020.

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