Industry Attacks State's Right to Curb Dangerous Air Pollution

SAN FRANCISCO (December 7, 2004) -- The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers today filed suit in federal court in Fresno, California, challenging California's new standards for the air pollution that causes global warming. The Alliance, representing General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, and others, claims that California is barred from curbing vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants.

"California is acting well within its rights to protect its people, its natural resources, and its economy from automotive air pollution," said David Doniger, senior attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and head of the environmental community's legal team defending the California standards. "This is about using better technology in engines, transmissions and other vehicle components to control the air pollution that causes global warming."

"Consumers will save money because these emission-control technologies also save fuel," Doniger added. "But California is regulating air pollution, not setting fuel economy standards."

Ordered under landmark legislation passed in July 2002, the standards adopted in September by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) gives car companies until 2016 to achieve a 30 percent reduction in heat-trapping emissions from new cars, pickups, minivans and SUVs sold in the state. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to implement and defend the statute against outside legal interference. The federal Clean Air Act guarantees California's right to control air pollution from motor vehicles.

The lawsuit comes amid growing indication of public and policymaker support for encouraging the use of innovative technology that would achieve the rule's mandate. Emissions reduction comes from improved conventional engine technologies, and advanced technologies many of the automakers are already offering, such as hybrid gas-electric vehicles.

At least seven other states (New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey) are already moving to adopt California's global warming rules. Last month, Canadian officials indicated plans to adopt similar rules. The states and Canada combined would account for a full 25% of the two country's combined car market.

An NRDC post-election poll released today reflects the strong public support for measures to bring us cleaner cars with better technology. In a survey of over 1,300 voters nationwide by the leading polling firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner, the poll found nearly three-quarters (73%) of Election Day voters support California's emissions law.

"Corporate management at GM, Ford, and Chrysler has always been slow to read the changing tide of public opinion, and this lawsuit reflects that short-sighted reflex," said Roland Hwang, NRDC auto analyst. "The Big Three are now way behind the curve on hybrids and are losing market share to more innovative competitors."

"Once again, we are especially disappointed in GM," said Hwang. "GM is spending millions of dollars advertising their environmental commitment, yet is suing California instead of following the law and manufacturing clean vehicles."

Motor vehicles emit carbon dioxide-the main cause of global warming-and three other global warming pollutants. This pollution acts like a heat-trapping blanket in the atmosphere. Scientists say if we do not cut these emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise.