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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
California gets landmark green law
Sports utility vehicle
Sales of SUVs have risen dramatically in recent years
California Governor Gray Davis has signed into law landmark anti-pollution legislation despite fierce opposition from the country's auto industry.

With the new measures, California has become the first US state to force carmakers to curb vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.


This is the first law to substantively address the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st Century

Governor Gray Davis
In this matter, California - America's most populous state - is stepping ahead of the federal administration, which has declined to raise national fuel efficiency standards.

The auto lobby has threatened to challenge the bill - in the courts or in a referendum - but analysts believe other states may soon follow California's lead.

'Driving tax'

Under the new legislation, California's Air Resources Board is required to adopt regulations to achieve the "maximum feasible reduction" in emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and light-duty trucks, which include sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

"This is the first law to substantively address the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st Century," Governor Davis said.

"In time, in every state - and hopefully in every country - will act to protect future generations from the threat of global warming."


The Air Resources Board wants everyone driving around in golf carts

Eron Shosteck,
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

California accounts for 13% of the country's auto sales, and nearly half of the passenger vehicles sold in the state are gas-guzzling SUVs and pick-up trucks.

Correspondents say many consumers opt for SUVs because, as light-duty trucks, they are exempt from certain federal emissions restrictions which apply to cars.

Automakers have until 2009 to come up with technological changes or comply with the new standards which should be drawn up by 2005.

The industry complains that not only does the bill amount to a "driving tax", but that it will also lead to increased prices and job losses.

Challenge

"The danger is that Californians may lose the choice to buy the vehicles they need for their families and work," Eron Shosteck, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, says.

California Governor Gray Davis
Governor Davis said the state had to take the lead

"This gives unelected bureaucrats a blank cheque to design the cars that Californians will drive... The Air Resources Board wants everyone driving around in golf carts," he adds.

Opponents of the bill are considering their options, including an effort to submit the bill to a referendum in the state ballot due to be held in November.

Mr Shosteck said that another option being studied is a legal challenge to California's right to override federal standards.

Leading the way

California is the only state that is allowed by federal law to impose its own air quality standards because its Air Resources Board was established before the national environment agency was set up under the Clean Air Act of 1970.


I would prefer Washington take the lead... In the absence of that, we have no choice but to do our part

Governor Gray Davis

That act also allows other states to follow California's lead in environmental matters and there are indications some will do so in this case, dealing a blow to the Bush administration's stand on environmental issues.

Democrats have criticised President Bush's government for failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

Mr Bush has refused to sign up to the Kyoto protocol which would commit the US to reducing emissions. Instead he has proposed industries reach voluntary emission reductions.

Congress this year rejected legislation to raise fuel economy standards for cars.

"I would prefer Washington take the lead," Governor Davis said.

"In the absence of that, we have no choice but to do our part."

See also:

15 Jul 02 | Business
18 May 01 | Business
15 Feb 02 | Americas
14 Feb 02 | Americas
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