Calif. AG wants emissions standards tied to bailout

Legal News Line Dec. 8, 2008, 11:00am

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown jumped into the automaker bailout debate in Washington on Monday when he fired off a letter to top Democrats urging tough emission standards get tied to any Congressional funding for American automakers.

Brown's 11th hour appeal requests any bailout legislation to adopt California's greenhouse gas standards, which require a 30 percent reduction of emissions from motor vehicles by 2016.

"More than a dozen states had adopted similar standards," the attorney general's office said in a statement on Monday, "which the auto industry has fought to prevent from taking effect."

Brown's one-page letter states that assistance from taxpayers should free the states to enforce emission standards and force the automakers to comply.

"For over 40 years," Brown wrote, "California has had the authority to set stricter standards the federal government for automobile emissions under the Clean Air Act. For thirty years, others states have been permitted to adopt these tougher standards. The program has worked exceedingly well."

But Brown said since this standard was applied to greenhouse gas emissions in 2005, "the automobile industry has attacked (the states) at every turn, and has indicated it will continue to do so."

Last week, Brown challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end eight years of "shameful inaction" by properly enforcing the standards of the Clean Air Act, something President-elect Barack Obama supports.

As of Monday, published reports out of Washington stated that a deal with the automakers is "very likely." Each of the chief executives of Chrysler, General Motors and Ford - America's so-called Big Three automakers - has gone before Congress several times to ask for upward of $40 billion in loans to help the companies avoid bankruptcy.

Bush administration officials said Monday they believed a deal for the loans was imminent, but that Democratic lawmakers must quickly adapt their provisions for a specific proposal to send to Congress for a vote of approval.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that a deal could happen Monday.

President George Bush wants time to check the proposal to ensure that a detailed plan for how the money will be spent is included. He is expected to veto any legislation that fails to demand accountability.

According to the latest published reports, any bailout funds will come from an existing loan program meant to help automakers build fuel-efficient vehicles. The amount of money to be approved is expected to be far less than the roughly $40 billion requested by the Big Three.

The exact nature of the accountability remains a point of contention, as is the specific demands for the types of vehicles that will be made.

It is unclear whether Brown's demand to tie emissions standards to the bailout will make any traction, though his letter went to powerful Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Finance Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Christopher Dodd, D- Conn.

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