SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Automakers can proceed with a lawsuit seeking to block strict vehicle emission standards that California regulators adopted two years ago, a federal judge said Monday.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii sided preliminarily with a coalition of automakers challenging the law, and said the lawsuit can go to trial Jan. 30.
The tailpipe standards were designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by 25 percent and from sport utility vehicles by 18 percent starting in 2009. Ten other states have since adopted the California standard.
“We’re disappointed because it’s going to cost taxpayers a lot of money to defend California laws. But we’re prepared to do that because it’s a really important law, worth fighting for,” said Teresa Schilling, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
The automobile industry argues the law amounts to an attempt to set new fuel-economy standards – the domain of the federal government. The automakers have said the standards cannot be reasonably adopted in the United States and would sharply boost vehicle costs.
State lawyers have argued that automakers can meet the standards by using new technology or alternate fuels.
The judge ruled that automakers can continue with their argument that allowing states to set their own emission standards would violate two federal laws that reserve that power to the federal government.
Ishii also allowed an automakers’ argument that California’s regulations would undermine the federal government’s ability to conduct a uniform foreign policy.