The nation's largest car companies on Monday sought to persuade a federal judge to toss out California's strict tailpipe emissions standards, which they say could wreck the U.S. auto market and trigger job losses at auto plants and dealerships nationwide.
The standards, which were passed into law in 2002, force automakers to build cars and light trucks that pump out 30 percent less greenhouse gases by 2016. More than a dozen other states have vowed to adopt them.
The auto industry also has filed three federal suits challenging the rules' validity, asking the courts to scrap the standards on grounds they require manufacturers to produce vehicles using too many different fuel efficiency standards.
California can set its own vehicle pollution standards because it started regulating air pollution before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created.
Lawyers for both sides presented arguments Monday before U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, who is expected to issue a decision as soon as next week.
"It is undisputed that this regulation will lead to job losses. The only question is the magnitude," said Andrew Clubok, a Washington-based attorney for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that represents the nation's 10 largest automakers, including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. "This turns the whole objective of the energy conservation process on its head."
California can't enforce its tailpipe rules for cars sold in the state until it gets a waiver from the EPA exempting it from national greenhouse gas pollution standards set under the federal Clean Air Act.
Earlier this month, California and 14 other states sued the agency, saying the waiver was crucial to meeting the provisions of a separate state global warming law that seeks to reduce those emissions statewide 25 percent by 2020.
"California is the leading state in the country dealing with the most fundamental problem facing the world and that is irreversible disruptive climate change," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The auto companies are waging an all-out assault on the state of California and its greenhouse gas tailpipe restrictions, so it's crucial that we win."