Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Good news for the environment

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It’s amazing how American automakers uniformly resist anything good: collapsible steering columns, resisted, said it was impossible until it was legislated, had it the next year; safety glass, resisted, had to be legislated in, window by window; more efficiency and higher mileage, resisted; removing lead from gasoline (and thus the environment), resisted; cleaner emissions, resisted. And the resistance isn’t trivial: they pay off lobbyists and politicians with millions, they go to court and if they lose, they appeal. All to fight something that would be good for the environment, good for the consumers, good for the nation.

And they’re still at it:

In a major defeat for automakers, a federal judge in Fresno ruled today that California could set its own standards on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. But the state still needs permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to implement the rules.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii rejected automakers’ arguments that standards set by the EPA would preempt such regulation by the California Air Resources Board.

“Both EPA and California . . . are equally empowered through the Clean Air Act to promulgate regulations that limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, from motor vehicles,” Ishii said, citing recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal court in Vermont.

This is the fourth recent defeat for automakers that have sought to fight more stringent tailpipe emissions rules.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the right to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants and that the agency could grant states permission to implement their own standards.

In September, a federal court in Vermont ruled similarly to the Fresno court on the question of federal preemption of state standards. Last month, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a loophole allowing lower emission standards for light trucks.

California has plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% between 2009 and 2016, under a state mandate passed in 2002.

“This is a major victory for California in its role as an innovator in tailpipe emissions,” state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said. “It’s a repudiation of the automobile companies’ strategy.”

Today’s ruling still leaves one significant hurdle for states wishing to implement such standards: a waiver from the EPA allowing implementation of the local standards. In November, California sued the federal government, demanding a ruling on the waiver request, which has been pending for nearly two years.

The Fresno ruling should not affect EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson’s pledge to issue a ruling on California’s waiver request by the end of the year, a spokeswoman for the agency said. However, EPA lawyers are reviewing Ishii’s ruling to determine whether “there are any relevant ramifications” for how the agency decides on the matter, she said.

Said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “California and other states will prevail in our goal to take aggressive action on climate change. With motor vehicles contributing to roughly 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative that we be granted the fuel waiver from the federal government.”

Environmental groups applauded today’s ruling.

“This is a huge win for clean air and a cooler planet,” said Vickie Patton, senior attorney with Environmental Defense. “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.”

The case Ishii ruled on today was filed in 2004 by the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and a group of San Joaquin Valley auto dealers.

Automakers have argued that regulating emissions is tantamount to regulating fuel economy. According to some estimates, California’s more stringent standards would raise the fuel economy of gasoline-fueled cars to an average of 43.5 miles per gallon by 2016, up from 27.5 mpg today.

“We can all agree that higher fuel economy is important, but the issue here was about federal fuel economy law,” said Dave McCurdy, chief executive of the auto manufacturers alliance. “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.”

The alliance is a trade association of 10 makers of cars and light trucks: BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2007 at 10:07 am

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