Attorney General Lockyer Lauds Court Ruling Bolstering Efforts To Clear Southern California Air

Federal Judge Upholds Rules Requiring Fleet Operators To Buy Cleanest-Burning Vehicles

Monday, May 9, 2005
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(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following statement on U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's decision allowing the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to enforce its requirement that fleet operators buy the cleanest-burning vehicles available:

"This decision is a major victory – not for pollution regulators, but for air quality and public health. The District did not adopt the fleet rules in a bureaucratic vacuum, but in response to studies that showed 70 percent of the cancer risk in air pollution comes from diesel exhaust. The requirements are not a burden, but a public health and environmental necessity. It's unfortunate that industry and the Bush Administration have not embraced them, but tried to defeat them."

The SCAQMD adopted the fleet rules for both private and government purchasers in 2000. The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) sued to block the rules in federal court in Los Angeles, claiming the federal Clean Air Act preempted the requirements. Judge Cooper rejected the challenge. But the EMA appealed, and the case ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Bush Administration sided with the EMA.

In April 2004, the high court ruled the SCAQMD could not enforce the rules on private fleet operators. But the court remanded the case back to Judge Cooper to resolve other issues. Among those issues was the extent to which the SCAQMD was acting as a market participant, not a regulator, and, if it was, whether it could apply at least some of the rules.

In a ruling handed down Friday, Judge Cooper said the rules, as applied to state or local government purchasers, "fall within the market participant doctrine." As a result, she said, the rules are not preempted by the Clean Air Act. The ruling could apply to private fleet operators, as well. That's because Judge Cooper rejected the EMA's facial challenge to the entire set of rules, including those governing private buyers. The SCAQMD and Lockyer contend that because the private-fleet rules typically involve state or local government contracts, the District also acts as a market participant in most of those cases.

Lockyer has supported the SCAQMD in its defense of the rules. He filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with the SCAQMD in the U.S. Supreme Court, and another on remand to Judge Cooper supporting the position that most applications of the rules fall within the market participant exception.

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