From: Kerry Cavanaugh, Daily News, Los Angeles
Published December 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Automakers Sue California over New Pollution Limits

Dec. 8-Nine automakers sued Tuesday to block California's new global warming vehicle pollution limits, claiming the state overstepped its bounds and could force consumers to pay thousands more for new cars.

Adopted in September, the standards aim to cut carbon dioxide and other tailpipe emissions by 30 percent by 2016. New cars would need to get at least 44 miles to a gallon and light trucks 27 miles a gallon.

The regulations were required under a 2002 greenhouse gas bill by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, and signed by then-governor Gray Davis.

The lawsuit filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in U.S. District Court in Fresno on Tuesday argues that by regulating carbon dioxide -- which is formed by burning gasoline -- the state is essentially setting fuel economy standards. Only the federal government can set fuel economy standards.

"Federal law is designed to ensure a consistent fuel economy across the country," Alliance CEO and President Fred Webber said. "There's a better way to improve fuel economy than this regulation, such as providing consumer tax incentives for the purchase of our new advanced-technology vehicles."

The Alliance also argued that Californians would pay an average of $3,000 more for a new car and there would be fewer vehicle models to choose from.

While environmentalists accused carmakers of "crying wolf" over excessive price increases, air regulators said the tailpipe emission limits would greatly benefit Californians by also cutting smog and soot.

"We had hoped that we would be able to work with the auto companies and find a way to avoid litigation. These lawsuits often end up hurting public health by slowing regulation that could have a beneficial effect on air pollution," said Jerry Martin, spokesman for the Air Resources Board.

California Controller Steve Westly said California's public employees and teachers pension funds have nearly a billion dollars invested in auto companies and fund managers will question how much the lawsuit will cost shareholders.

"It's better to invest in clean technologies than fight the inevitable in court," Westly said.

The Alliance includes BMW, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

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