SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California scored a major victory Wednesday in its bid to be a player in the fight against global warming, as a federal judge ruled that the state has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii in Fresno was another in a series of losses this year for automakers, who have sought to block California’s clean-car mandates from taking effect here and in 16 other states that together make up nearly half the U.S. population.
The win for environmentalists is tempered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, however, which has yet to grant California’s two-year-old request for a waiver, the last roadblock to the new rules.
Ishii’s ruling puts more pressure on the federal government to approve California’s law and sends a signal to Congress not to interfere in that process.
“Today’s decision marks another important victory in the fight against global warming,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “California and other states will prevail in our goal to take aggressive action on climate change.”
Automakers sued California over the tailpipe standards it approved in 2004, which would force automakers to cut greenhouse gases by about one- third in new cars and light trucks by 2016.
The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers argued that a 1975 federal energy law gave the U.S. Department of Transportation sole jurisdiction to establish one uniform fuel economy standard.
They said piecemeal attempts by states to regulate greenhouse gases would force manufacturers to make vehicles using too many different standards, raising the cost of cars and eliminating some model choices.
But Ishii rejected those claims, saying Congress gave California and the EPA the authority to regulate vehicle emissions, even if they impose rules that are more strict than those from federal highway officials.
“It would be the very definition of folly” to prevent environmental agencies from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, Ishii wrote in his 57-page opinion.
AIAM said it would consult with its 14 member companies about whether to appeal.
Twelve other states – Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – have adopted California’s emissions standards, and the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah have said they also plan to adopt them.