Industry claims an emissions-standard victory

News ARTBA May 04, 2004
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In a victory for the transportation construction industry, the U

In a victory for the transportation construction industry, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that state and local governments cannot impose their own air quality emissions standards for certain equipment, truck and automobile fleets.

At issue was a plan by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to prohibit private companies and public agencies in the Los Angeles area from purchasing or leasing vehicles by certain fleet operators that did not meet stringent emissions requirements.

The Engine Manufacturers Association filed a lawsuit challenging the agency's proposal in August 2000. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) filed three "friend of the court" briefs throughout the case on behalf of its members arguing state and local governments were pre-empted from setting such emissions standards by the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). The association also said it would be unreasonable to force transportation contractors to maintain separate fleets of equipment and vehicles according to the separate air quality regulations for every state--or even city--where they conducted business.

In the 8-1 decision, the court agreed with ARTBA, saying Congress did not intend for state and local units of government to be able to set their own set of engine standards. Under the CAA, the federal government has the authority to ensure uniform air quality standards nationwide, Justice Antonin Scalia said in issuing the court's decision. It does not matter whether such restrictions are placed on the manufacturer or purchaser of such engines--all such restrictions are pre-empted by the CAA, the court said.

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