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Auto Pollution Controversy Drifts into Minnesota

January 3, 2008

Minneapolis, MN – A lawsuit filed against the federal government is drawing the support of Minnesota. Five nonprofits are challenging a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency denying California's bid to set auto pollution standards that are stricter than those imposed on the federal level. Scott Elkins, Minnesota spokesman for the Sierra Club, says it's a states' rights issue.

"We believe that it's in the interest of citizens throughout the country to have the right to establish more stringent limits on carbon pollution from cars and trucks. And, we're hopeful that Minnesota will soon follow the lead of these other states to establish more stringent standards."

Elkins says California was denied a waiver that would have allowed it to regulate tailpipe emissions to reduce global warming. The Bush administration argues separate state programs would create regulatory confusion, and claims recently passed fuel-efficiency standards will cut greenhouse emissions sufficiently.

Sixteen other states are ready to adopt the California standards and Elkins says Minnesota has a big stake in the outcome.

"We applaud Governor Pawlenty's statements saying that it was an important step for Minnesota to reduce its own carbon pollution by adopting the California standard. Now, the E.P.A. has said that Minnesota and other states are prohibited from adopting more stringent standards. We're hopeful that Governor Pawlenty will follow through and either get involved in the court case or make strong public statements indicating his support for Minnesota having the option of increasing fuel efficiency standards over the relatively weak federal standards."

Elkins says this is the first time the E.P.A. has denied a waiver to allow a state to enforce tougher pollution laws than the federal government.

Sierra Club Climate Council David Bookbinder says government needs to be part of the solution, not the problem.

"Automobiles are the second-largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. The Bush administration has repeatedly, over the last seven years, refused to regulate greenhouse gases from cars or any other source."

Automakers say the California standards would increase vehicle costs and force them to drop some S.U.V. and pickup lines. Bookbinder acknowledges the standards might add an extra $1,000 to the cost of a car, but argues that would be made up quickly through the savings realized from higher fuel efficiency. The proposed California law requires carmakers to cut emissions by a fleet-wide average of 30 percent by 2016.

More information is available at the Sierra Club website at www.sierra.org.

Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN