California has long been a trendsetter. Since 1967, the smog-ridden state has set clean air standards that are stricter than federal laws require. But now, the auto industry, backed by the Bush administration, is trying to halt the California Air Resources Board's progressive auto-emissions regulations.
In 1990, the state required that 10
percent of cars sold between 2003 and 2008 be "zero emission"
electric vehicles. But in January 2001, during negotiations with
automakers, the board conceded that the regulation was too strict
and amended it, requiring 8 percent of vehicles to be "low
emissions" vehicles or hybrid cars and only 2 percent to be "zero
Not satisfied with the
compromise, the auto industry sued the state earlier this year,
claiming the board illegally uses fuel efficiency as a yardstick to
measure emissions. Under federal law, only Congress or the
Department of Transportation can set fuel-efficiency
After a federal judge delayed
implementation of the board's regulation, Bush administration
lawyers sided with automakers, claiming it would be "overly
complex" if every state had its own fuel efficiency
Though the California attorney
general's office is disappointed by the administration's actions,
they come as no surprise to David Doniger of the Natural Resources
Defense Council. "The Bush administration is in bed with the
automakers in the same way that it's in bed with coal and electric
energy companies," says Doniger.