California's Clean Cars Program Under Attack

Federal government should side with California, instead of Detroit, says NRDC

Statement by Ann Notthoff, NRDC California Advocacy Director

     SAN FRANCISCO (February 13, 2003) - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard oral arguments today in a case pitting Detroit automakers and the Bush administration against California's Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program. The auto industry's legal challenge is the latest chapter in a sordid story of resistance to California's clean air rules, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The group said the federal government's siding with Detroit is an unprecedented attack on California's legal right to regulate air pollution.

     "Everyone who breathes the air should care about what's happening today in the San Francisco federal appeals court," said NRDC California advocacy director, Ann Notthoff. "It's no surprise that auto makers would resist our efforts to clean up tailpipe pollution. After all, that's been their pattern for more than 30 years.

     "But we are appalled that the White House is walking away from the federal government's longstanding recognition that California has the right to find special solutions to solve our special air pollution problems. The federal Clean Air Act specifically authorizes California to set its own clean air standards.

     "One week ago, President Bush touted his plan to build the advanced technology clean cars of the future. Now the Department of Justice is going to court to fight the only program in the country that actually requires auto makers to build them. If the administration were serious about building better, cleaner cars, it would be siding with California instead of Detroit.

     "Ironically, Detroit and Washington are attacking the very provisions of the ZEV rule that are designed to give the auto makers more flexibility at a lower cost. The ZEV amendments under attack would give the auto makers partial credit for building gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. These are cars that are becoming increasingly popular on our roads, such as the Toyota Prius and new Honda Civic. In fact, the ZEV program has helped to drive the development of these and other advanced clean car technologies.

     "California has long been recognized as the global leader in vehicle pollution solutions. We need to build on this success with the ZEV and other programs to protect air quality and public health."

     The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served by offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More information on NRDC is available at its Web site: