From Detroit Free Press
FRESNO, CA — Automobile manufacturers sued on Tuesday to block the world’s toughest vehicle emissions standards, adopted by California regulators in September to cut greenhouse gases.
The manufacturers argue in their lawsuit the standards, which could set a precedent for other states, must by law be the responsibility of the federal government.
“Federal law is designed to ensure a consistent fuel economy program across the country,” Fred Webber, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in announcing the lawsuit filed in federal court in Fresno, Calif., where previous similar challenges to the state’s clean air efforts, the most stringent in the nation, have been filed.
The suit had been expected since the regulations were adopted.
California is the first state to pass regulations that limit emissions of the heat-trapping gas tied to global warming. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the law is an attempt to force automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to its suit filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno.
“The only way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to burn less fuel,” Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the trade group, said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “Only the federal government can control fuel economy standards.”
State air regulators did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
The regulations are to be phased in beginning in 2009. The California Air Resources Board estimates they would cut exhaust emissions in cars and light trucks by 25 percent and in larger trucks and sport-utility vehicles by 18 percent.
They would require automakers to use better air conditioners, more efficient transmissions and smaller engines. Manufacturers argued the result is a hypothetical vehicle that doesn’t exist and can’t practically be built.
Joining the alliance as plaintiffs were several automobile dealers in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
The arguments in the latest suit are similar to previous challenges.
The suit contends only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to set fuel economy standards.
State regulators sidestepped the issue by regulating carbon dioxide emissions, not fuel economy. But the alliance argues “carbon dioxide and fuel economy are synonymous,” noting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses carbon dioxide emissions to gauge the vehicles’ fuel efficiency.
The alliance said complying with the California standards would increase the cost of a new vehicle an average $3,000. It also said the regulations would reduce consumer choices because manufacturers would likely dump vehicles with higher emissions, such as full-size pickups with large engines. Air regulators estimated the cost at about $1,000 per vehicle.
Consumers already can choose from more than 30 vehicles that achieve more than 30 miles per gallon, the alliance noted, but aren’t buying them.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers represents General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Ford Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Porsche AG, Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp.
Click here to view the rest of today’s headlines.