Breaking with the federal government’s long history of supporting California’s clean-air efforts, the Bush administration is saying the Golden State went too far by revising its zero-emission-vehicle rule last year. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Justice Department, the White House sided with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, which have taken California to court over the law. A Department of Transportation spokesperson called the zero-emission-vehicle legislation an “impermissible intrusion” into federal jurisdiction. California is the only state allowed to set its own air-quality standards and has the nation’s most rigorous air-pollution laws. The White House is objecting to the inclusion of hybrid-engine vehicles in the zero-emissions law because the air-quality standards for hybrids are defined in terms of fuel economy, which is the sole province of the feds. David Doniger, policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center, says the Bush administration’s message is clear: “Given the choice between clean air in California and car makers, they choose car makers.”
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