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Carmakers seek to block carbon-reduction rules

June 07, 2008|From Bloomberg News

General Motors Corp. and 21 other carmakers denied claims by California regulators that they could comply with the state's carbon-reduction rules this year and asked a judge Friday for an order blocking the requirements.

GM and two industry groups representing U.S., Asian and European companies said in filings in federal court in Fresno that the state was attempting to enforce carbon-exhaust rules that were barred by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Without an injunction, carmakers will have to spend billions of dollars over 18 months, according to the filing. The companies are seeking a court order that would prevent California from requiring companies to take any steps toward compliance before 2017.

"Compliance with the greenhouse-gas standards could require the investment of billions of dollars before the end of the calendar year 2009," the carmakers said in the filings.

In December, the EPA denied California's request to require cuts in greenhouse-gas exhaust starting with model-year 2009 vehicles, saying a national approach was needed. It was the first time that the EPA rejected a California pollution program.

The state rules, which are stricter than federal fuel-economy standards, would mandate a 30% reduction in vehicle carbon emissions by 2016. Carmakers would be blocked from selling cars in California, where residents buy 21% of all vehicles sold in the U.S., if they don't meet the regulations.

If a new administration reverses the EPA decision, California will require carmakers to show compliance with the regulations within 45 days, according to court filings.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has said he would reverse the EPA decision if elected. Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has said he supports states' rights to cut carbon pollution.

Lawyers for carmakers said in court filings that by giving manufacturers only 45 days to comply if the EPA decision was reversed, the state was in effect forcing them to start spending billions now to upgrade plants to build cars that meet the regulations.

Ellen Peter, chief counsel for the California Air Resources Board, said automotive executives had testified in court and in depositions that they could comply with California's rules for model years 2009 and 2010.

"Right now every single manufacturer can meet the regulations without doing anything different" in the program's early years, Peter said May 29 in an interview.

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