Feds urge overturn of Calif. air law
By ANDREW BRIDGES
The Associated Press
8/30/2003, 4:51 p.m. PT
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The federal government is backing a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to overturn a California clean-air agency's attempt to curb pollution from buses, taxis, trash trucks and other fleet vehicles.
From Our Advertiser
In a filing late Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice urged the court to overturn the South Coast Air Quality Management District's clean fleet rules for the greater Los Angeles metropolitan region. The laws, adopted in 2000 and 2001, require operators to buy cleaner-burning models when they replace or add vehicles to their fleets.
The laws have resulted in the replacement of hundreds of diesel trucks, buses and other vehicles with models that burn natural gas and other alternative fuels, according to the AQMD, which is charged with cleaning up the air in much of Southern California.
Two industry groups, the Western States Petroleum Association and the Engine Manufacturers Association, sued the AQMD in U.S. District Court. The clean-air agency prevailed in that court and in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case in December.
The Department of Justice's friend-of-the-court brief argues that under the federal Clean Air Act, states and local jurisdictions cannot establish their own emission standards for new vehicles without getting permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A message seeking comment from the Department of Justice was not immediately returned Saturday.
The AQMD maintains the rules do not set emissions standards. Instead, the rules ask fleet owners to choose from among the cleanest engine technologies available, and allow exceptions if no alternatives can be located, agency executive officer Barry Wallerstein said.
The Engine Manufacturers Association has argued that the rules constitute a de facto ban on certain engines and vehicles.
The brief marked the third time in a month the federal government has weighed in on issues that affect Southern California's fight against the nation's worst smog.
Previously, the EPA refused to commit to any emission reduction measures that the AQMD sought for the region. The AQMD requested the action in the latest update to its plan to clean up Southern California's air by 2010.
And on Wednesday, the EPA unveiled revisions to the 40-year-old Clean Air Act that will allow power plants and factories to upgrade without adopting the most up-to-date pollution control equipment.
Several states, including California, are expected to go to court to block the revisions.