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Automakers Battle California On Emission Standards

Manufacturers say the California standards would raise the cost of cars and reduce their offering of sport utility vehicles and pickups.

WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Automakers are lobbying President George W. Bush's administration to prevent California and 11 other U.S. states from implementing stricter standards on certain vehicle emissions, contending it would create chaos in the marketplace.
Industry officials have told the administration that it would force them to develop various vehicle plans for different states, creating a costly and cumbersome process for their industry and dealership network.
California has said it intends to sue the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the state to impose tougher regulations on the emissions of greenhouse gases from passenger cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans.
''Our worst fear is that the EPA grants the California waiver,'' said Mike Stanton, head of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, during a Thursday breakfast with reporters.
The state wants to implement a 2002 state law that would make automakers build vehicles that emit less greenhouse gas by the 2009 model year, cutting emissions by about a quarter by 2030.
California's law can only take effect if the EPA grants the state a waiver â€” requested two years ago â€” under the Clean Air Act. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson has said he will make a decision by the end of the year.
The request comes as the U.S. Congress is considering new fuel economy standards for the industry as part of an energy bill.
''If EPA rejects it, it will be based on politics and nothing but politics,'' said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. O'Donnell and supporters of the waiver say its rejection would undermine the ability of states to protect residents from pollution.
The federal government sets national air pollution standards, but California has the right to ask EPA to let it enact its own regulations under the Clean Air Act. Other states can opt to follow the federal rules or the California standards if they are tougher.
Eleven other states â€” Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington â€” plan to implement California's emissions standards if it gets the waiver. The governors of Arizona, Florida and New Mexico have said their states will adopt the standard.
Automakers have said the California approach would raise the cost of cars and require manufacturers to reduce their offering of sport utility vehicles and pickups. They have sought one federal standard for tailpipe emissions.
''We think there's a basis for them to write a stringent rule, a comprehensive rule, and one that can address a national issue,'' said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, Toyota Motor Corp. and others.
Stanton and lobbyists representing Toyota, Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. met last week with Bush administration budget and environmental officials about pending rule-making on vehicle emissions and the waiver.
He estimated that several other states could adopt California's standards, eventually representing about two-thirds of the new vehicle market in the United States. The auto industry has said the standard is too aggressive.
''This screams for a national program,'' he said.
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