WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. government-sponsored report backs
California's role in setting tough standards on smog-forming
emissions from cars, trucks and construction vehicles. The state's
approach is scientifically valid and necessary in the quest for
cleaner air, researchers said Thursday.
Acknowledging substantial progress in reducing emissions, the
National Academies' National Research Council also said more needs
to be done to meet federal air-quality standards in many parts of
the United States.
California began regulating pollution before the federal
government did. Under the Clean Air Act, the state has the power to
set its own vehicle pollution standards. Among the other states that
have put in place California's rules are Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont
``California has used its authority as Congress envisioned: to
implement more aggressive measures than the rest of the country and
to serve as a laboratory for technological innovation,'' the report
The auto industry and environmentalists, which have fought over
California's strict requirements, kept close watch on the review,
which the U.S. Congress ordered in 2003.
Automakers have said the state's rules add considerable cost for
consumers and that the federal standards for nitrogen oxide and
hydrocarbons are stringent. Environmentalists worried that
legislators might use the study to restrict states' abilities to
follow California regulations.
``State initiatives were the kick-in-the-pants automakers needed
to produce the cleanest cars on the market today,'' said Michelle
Robinson, Washington director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the
Union of Concerned Scientists.
The report does not recommend giving the Environmental Protection
Agency the power to stop states from following California's
standards. Instead, it encourages the agency to give states more
guidance on the benefits of the federal rules.
Automakers noted that the study recognized that vehicles have
become cleaner since the 1970s. Charles Territo, a spokesman for the
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said it also recommended that
the EPA ``become more involved in helping states understand the
complexities of the regulations and the benefit of the
David Allen, chairman of the council committee that produced the
report, said manufacturers described the costs associated with
complying with both California and federal standards. But it was
difficult for the committee to quantify those costs, said Allen, a
professor of chemical engineering professor at the University of
Texas at Austin.
When the California Air Resources Board revises or sets an
emission standard, it must seek a waiver from the EPA. The study
recommended that the agency speed up waiver requests it considers
routine and put a time limit on more contentious decisions.
The committee recommended that EPA reviews last no longer than
While the study was underway, California air regulators in
September 2004 approved the world's most stringent rules to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. The auto industry has challenged those
standards in court; the report did not address the subject.