Automakers challenge California emissions regulation

| Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A group of car manufacturers has sued the state of California in a challenge to the state’s emissions control laws.

In a statement issued Dec. 7, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – a trade association of nine car and light truck manufacturers – said the group would join a suit by auto dealers in the state’s Central Valley. The suit challenges the greenhouse gas law, which calls for carmakers to increase their products’ mileage in an attempt to lower emissions.

The group’s suit rests in part on the principal that the federal government – not states – should have the right to set a uniform, national fuel-economy standard. The alliance suggests that trying to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is a back-door attempt by the state to regulate fuel economy, since the best way to reduce emissions of that gas is to cut the amount of fuel burned per mile.

“Carbon dioxide and fuel economy are synonymous,” the group wrote in a news release. “In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures carbon dioxide to determine the fuel efficiency labels on new vehicles. But Congress gave exclusive authority to NHTSA to set the maximum feasible fuel economy standards.”

The suit brought immediate criticism from environmental groups, and from state officials in New York and California who control the states’ pensions funds, which are major investors in some of the companies that are part of the auto makers alliance, according to media reports.

California State Controller Steve Westly told The Los Angeles Times he wants automakers to explain why they “are choosing to pay more for lawyers to challenge the law rather than investing in more engineers to build the cleaner cars the public wants.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers includes automakers BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.