General Motors Corp. and 21 carmakers claim California is trying to enforce carbon-reduction rules not yet approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and asked a judge for an order blocking the regulations.
GM and two industry groups representing U.S., Asian and European companies said in court filings yesterday in federal court in Fresno, California, that the state is attempting to enforce carbon-exhaust rules that are barred by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Without an injunction, carmakers will have to spend billions of dollars by the end of this year, according to the filing. The companies are seeking a court order that would prevent California from requiring companies to take any steps toward compliance before 2017.
"Compliance with the greenhouse gas standards could require the investment of billions of dollars before the end of the calendar year 2009," the carmakers said in the filings.
In December the EPA denied California's request to require cuts in greenhouse gas exhaust starting with model-year 2009 vehicles, saying a national approach was needed. It was the first time the EPA rejected a California pollution program.
The state rules, which are stricter than federal fuel- economy standards, would mandate a 30 percent reduction in vehicle carbon emissions by 2016. Carmakers would be blocked from selling cars in California, whose residents buy 21 percent of all vehicles sold in the U.S., if they didn't meet the regulations.
If a new administration reverses the EPA decision, California will require carmakers to show compliance with the regulations within 45 days, according to court filings.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has said he would reverse the EPA decision if elected. Republican nominee John McCain said he supports states' rights to cut carbon pollution.
Lawyers for carmakers said in court filings that by giving manufacturers only 45 days to comply if the EPA decision is reversed, the state is in effect forcing them to start spending billions now to upgrade plants to build cars that meet the regulations.
Ellen Peter, chief counsel for the California Air Resources Board, said automotive executives have testified in court and in depositions that they can comply with California's rules for model-years 2009 and 2010.
"Right now every single manufacturer can meet the regulations without doing anything different" in the program's early years, Peter said May 29 in an interview.
California officials have taken court testimony out of context, lawyers for carmakers said in court filings.
"Certainly the early years of the California standards aren't that difficult," said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, one of the groups seeking to block the California regulations. "There's a tremendous leap in the later years. The rate of increase appears to be unattainable by most automakers."
David Barthmuss, a GM spokesman, referred questions about the lawsuit to the alliance.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii in Fresno hasn't ruled on whether to issue the order. Car dealerships, GM and the alliance sued the California air board in 2005 to block the state's carbon-reduction rules. Ishii ruled against the industry last year.