WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Automakers and their allies today suffered another major loss in their attempts to block states from enforcing their own limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.
The latest ruling came from U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii in Fresno, Calif. Ishii said state rules to limit greenhouse gases from vehicles do not conflict with federal fuel economy regulation -- the industrys principal argument.
The ruling is similar to one made by a federal court in Vermont in September. Automakers have appealed the Vermont ruling and are likely to do so in the California case as well.
California and at least 14 other states want to begin enforcing greenhouse gas limits on cars and light trucks in the 2009 model year. By 2016 the rules would require vehicles to have about 30 percent lower emissions.
The main target is carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fuel. So, the chief way to comply would be with better fuel economy.
The EPA could still block the state rules by denying California a waiver under the Clean Air Act. A decision is expected within weeks.
Josephine Cooper, group vice president of government and industry affairs for Toyota Motor North America Inc., said of the prospect of state-by-state rules: We dont know how we are going to do this. Cooper made the comment at a briefing for Washington reporters on other issues.
Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., said granting the waiver would let California set the de facto fuel economy standard for the nation -- because the market for vehicles with California-style rules is so large.
Frank ODonnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch, called Ishiis decision a stunning rebuke to car company attempts to kill the California standards.
Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement today that the industry arguments remain valid.
Said McCurdy: 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.
He noted that Congress is on the verge of setting dramatically higher standards to 35 mpg by 2020 in a pending energy bill.
The alliance was one plaintiff in the California case. It represents the Detroit 3, Toyota and six other automakers. The group has not yet decided whether to appeal, a spokesman said.