Automakers Make No Headway Against California Clean Car Law
SACRAMENTO, California, June 29, 2008 (ENS) - A federal judge has denied the latest attempt by automobile manufacturers to invalidate the California law that regulates greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

Often called the California Clean Car Law, or the Pavley law because it was introduced by then Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, the measure was enacted on July 22, 2002 by California Governor Gray Davis.

The law directed the California Air Resources Board to develop and adopt regulations that achieve the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of global warming emissions from passenger cars and light trucks sold in California.

Regulations were developed during 2004 through a series of public workshops and hearings, and were adopted unanimously by the California Air Resources Board on September 24, 2004.

Regulations will apply only to 2009 and later model year vehicles and will require about a 30 percent reduction of global warming emissions by 2016.

California has unique authority under the Clean Air Act to establish standards for passenger vehicles. While no other state has this authority, other states do have the option to adopt California’s standards in place of federal standards, and to date 17 other states have adopted the Clean Car Law standards.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must grant to California a waiver of less stringent federal standards, which to date the agency has declined to do.
Los Angeles traffic - jammed again. (Photo credit unknown)

Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep and other California dealerships, joined by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, AIAM, filed suit against the California Air Resources Board to overturn the law. AIAM represents 730 auto dealers in California with a total financial investment of $2.8 billion.

They argued that the EPA would never grant a waiver to California, and if it ever does, manufacturers would need more lead time to develop the technology needed to meet its requirements.

The manufacturers argued that they are caught on the horns of a dilemma - whether to invest in carbon dioxide reducing technology or risk being out of compliance with standards that may or may not be granted a waiver of federal preemption sometime in the future.

On June 23, Judge Anthony Ishii ruled that the automakers and dealers were not entitled to overturn this law.

In his decision Judge Ishii wrote, "..so far as this court can discern, the choice to proceed as though California would never be granted waiver of federal preemption is fundamentally just a business decision that, like any other, may have negative consequences if wrongly made. It is not up to the courts to deflect the burden of such business decisions."

Three environmental groups filed a brief in support of the California Air Resources Board.

Attorney Matt Pawa, who represented Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense in the case, said, "In short, the car companies argued that they will need a lot of lead time if and when California receives its EPA waiver in order to come into compliance with the new emissions rules and thus California should be enjoined from enforcing its law for a period of time even after EPA grants a waiver."

"The court has basically said to the companies that it was your decision to assume that the Pavley law would never come into effect either by an EPA waiver denial or a victory in the lawsuit and if your risk did not pay off, that is your risk," Pawa said.

AIAM President and chief executive Michael Stanton explained why the organization supports the EPA decision to deny California’s request for a waiver.

"This is not a question of whether to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks. AIAM and its members have always supported this goal and believe that the auto industry must do its part to address the critically important national and international issue of climate change. Rather, it is focused on only one issue - who should set those standards," Stanton said on February 29, the day the EPA denied California's waiver request.

"AIAM believes, like EPA, that it is the federal government that should set those standards," he said.

The presumptive presidential candidates for both political parties, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois are on record as saying they support California's waiver request.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.