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Court Rejects Challenge To California's Green Car Regulations

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge Friday that sought to bar implementation of a California regulation meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by forcing automakers to make and sell less polluting cars in the state.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the U.S. Chamber of Commerce failed to identify any members affected by the regulation, and the National Automobile Dealers Association didn't prove its members would suffer future harm.

The suit by those groups argued that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should not have granted California a waiver under the Clean Air Act for its emissions program, saying it would create future harm to auto dealers and other businesses.

"Even if EPA's decision to grant California a waiver for its emissions standards once posed an imminent threat of injury to the petitioners – which is far from clear – the agency's subsequent adoption of federal standards has eliminated any independent threat that may have existed," the court wrote.

California's clean car program implements stricter emissions standards on cars starting with 2009 models. The emissions standards get increasingly tougher until 2015. Fourteen other states, including Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts have also adopted California's program.

"It is important to note that this decision leaves intact EPA's confirmation that California's vehicle emissions program can address our state's compelling and extraordinary conditions to reduce greenhouse gases and clean our air," said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

Since the board adopted the state program, EPA has implemented a similar federal program meant to achieve the same greenhouse gas reductions from passenger vehicles and light trucks by 2016.

Further, the court found that automakers, not dealers, are regulated under the program and therefore would likely have the standing needed to proceed with the case. But automakers were not a party to the lawsuit and are barred from challenging the program under an earlier agreement.

The car dealers association said having state and federal regulations is a confusing way to proceed in reducing pollution, and is bad for business.

Returning the nation to a single, national fuel economy standard "would reduce this nation's dependence on foreign oil and harness the power of consumers to put more fuel efficient vehicles on the road," the association said in a statement.

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