Federal Court Upholds California Tailpipe Emissions Law

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District California rejected an automobile industry challenge to California's law to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from the tailpipes of cars and trucks (Central Valley Chrysler Jeep, Inc. vs. Goldstone).

The emissions standard would require a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by 2016, starting with model year 2009. Automakers claimed that U.S. foreign policy and federal fuel economy laws preempt state authority to curb emissions.

Judge Anthony Ishii found that both EPA and California are equally empowered under the Clean Air Act to set regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

"We can all agree that higher fuel economy is important, but the issue here was about federal fuel economy law," said Dave McCurdy, the president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that represents plaintiff Chrysler and nine other car manufacturers. "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."

Alliance officials stated that they will continue studying the decision and considering the options, including an appeal.

The ruling also is a victory for states that have approved laws or regulations on tailpipe emissions that were modeled after California's 2002 statute. Since the court rejected the industry suit, California and the other states await EPA's approval of a waiver that would allow California to exceed federal clean-air requirements. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown sued EPA in November, arguing that the agency is dragging its feet on processing the state's waiver.

EPA officials have said that they expect to rule on the waiver request by the end of the year.

The court order can be accessed in PDF format at http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/press/pdfs/n1509_656_order_12-12-07.pdf.

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