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Stubborn U.S. automakers seek to overrule
California program on tailpipe emissions

The Associated Press

FRESNO, California — The largest U.S. car companies have sought to persuade a federal judge to toss out California's strict tailpipe emissions standards, which they say could wreck the American auto market and lead to job losses at auto plants and dealerships nationwide.

The standards, which were passed into law in 2002, require automakers to build cars and light trucks that emit 30 percent less greenhouse gases by 2016. More than a dozen other states have vowed to adopt them.

The auto industry has also filed three federal suits challenging the validity of the rules, asking the courts to scrap the standards on grounds they require manufacturers to produce vehicles using too many different fuel efficiency standards. Lawyers for both sides presented arguments Monday before Judge Anthony Ishii, who is expected to issue a decision as soon as next week.

California can set its own vehicle pollution standards because it started regulating air pollution before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created.

"It is undisputed that this regulation will lead to job losses - the only question is the magnitude," said Andrew Clubok, a lawyer in Washington for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that represents the 10 largest U.S. automakers.

California cannot enforce its tailpipe rules for cars sold in the state until it gets a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency exempting it from national greenhouse gas pollution standards set under the federal Clean Air Act. California and 14 other states sued the agency this month, saying that 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.

"The auto companies are waging an all-out assault on the state of California," said Jerry Brown, the attorney general of California, in an interview.

Whistle-blower files lawsuit

An employee at a California plant run jointly by General Motors and Toyota is accusing her managers of allowing serious defects to go unchecked, including faulty seat belts and braking, and retaliating when she resisted, according to a lawsuit filed this month, The Associated Press reported from Tokyo.

In the case, before Alameda County Superior Court in California, Katy Cameron, a certified auditor at the joint venture, charged that management had routinely deleted or downgraded defects from her reports on vehicles since 2005. Toyota in Japan declined comment on the lawsuit, saying it was still looking into the allegations.