U.S. Supreme Court Decision Prolongs Fight for Clean Air

LOS ANGELES (April 28, 2004) - Statement by Gail Ruderman Feuer re the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Engine Manufacturers Association and Western States Petroleum Association v. South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) et. al." Gail Ruderman Feuer, director of NRDC's Southern California Air Project, is lead counsel of record for the environmental organizations in the case, which include NRDC, Coalition for Clean Air, Communities for a Better Environment, Planning and Conservation League, and Sierra Club.

"Although we're disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision, its practical impact is only to drag on the legal fight for clean air. Despite the ruling, all six of these rules may survive.

"While the Court today found that Southern California's Air District cannot require private fleets to buy new clean fuel vehicles, it left open the door that the six fleet rules may not be preempted in their regulation of public fleets, and used and leased vehicles. The Court specifically found that fleet rules may avoid preemption if they "can be characterized as internal state purchase decisions," which would likely include more than publicly owned fleets, for example, private companies on contract with the government.

"All six of the rules at issue in this case address vehicle purchases by public entities, from transit buses to trash trucks. The decision leaves it to the District Court to sort out which rules will survive, but as of today, the fleet rules stand.

"Since the Air District adopted these rules in 2000 and 2001, more than 5,000 clean fuel transit and school buses, trash trucks, street sweepers, and other trucks have replaced diesel vehicles in Southland fleets. These vehicles are helping reduce smog-forming and cancer-causing emissions.

"We now expect another long legal battle over whether the Air District has the power to protect the health of Southern Californians by requiring the purchase of cleaner vehicles.

"The Air District has estimated that the fleet rules apply to over 10,000 heavy-duty vehicles in the South Coast region. The fleet rules were adopted in response to the Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study II ("MATES II") released by the SCAQMD in March 2000, which found that 71 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution in the region comes from diesel exhaust pollution."