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Sunday » August 31 » 2003
Washington joins business lobby to overturn California clean fuel law
Saturday, August 30, 2003
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The U.S. government is backing a lawsuit before
the Supreme Court that seeks to overturn a California clean-air
agency's attempt to curb pollution from buses, taxis, trash trucks
and other fleet vehicles.
In a filing late Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice urged the
court to overturn the South Coast Air Quality Management District's
clean fleet rules for the greater Los Angeles metropolitan region.
The laws, adopted in 2000 and 2001, require operators to buy cleaner-
burning models when they replace or add vehicles to their fleets.
The laws have resulted in the replacement of hundreds of diesel
trucks, buses and other vehicles with models that burn natural gas
and other alternative fuels, said the AQMD, which is charged with
cleaning up the air in much of southern California.
Two industry groups, the Western States Petroleum Association and the
Engine Manufacturers Association, sued the AQMD in U.S. District
Court. The clean-air agency prevailed in that court and in the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is
expected to hear the case in December.
The Department of Justice's friend-of-the-court brief argues under
the federal Clean Air Act, states and local jurisdictions cannot
establish their own emission standards for new vehicles without
permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A message
seeking comment from the Department of Justice was not immediately
The AQMD maintains the rules do not set emissions standards. Instead,
the rules ask fleet owners to choose from among the cleanest engine
technologies available and allow exceptions if no alternatives can be
located, agency executive officer Barry Wallerstein said.
The Engine Manufacturers Association has argued the rules constitute
a de-facto ban on certain engines and vehicles.
The brief marked the third time in a month the federal government has
weighed in on issues that affect southern California's fight against
the worst smog in the United States.
Previously, the EPA refused to commit to any emission-reduction
measures the AQMD sought for the region. The AQMD requested the
action in the latest update to its plan to clean up southern
California's air by 2010.
And on Wednesday, the EPA announced revisions to the 40-year-old
Clean Air Act that will allow power plants and factories to upgrade
without adopting the most up-to-date pollution-control equipment.
Several states, including California, are expected to go to court to
block the revisions.
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