WASHINGTON—Attempts by auto makers to modify proposed new federal tailpipe emissions standards has increased the likelihood that some states instead will adopt California's new, more stringent clean-air rules. Bill Becker, executive director of two associations of state and local air quality administrators, recently sounded that alarm after a coalition of health and environmental groups urged Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states to move now to adopt the California rules, which that state approved last November.
Mr. Becker said state officials are generally pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed federal rules, called Tier 2. So, if the automobile industry wants to avoid a patchwork of more-stringent requirements in the states, it ought to back the EPA plan without seeking changes, he said.
Auto makers say they favor tougher tailpipe standards, but they want more time than the EPA has proposed to phase in all light trucks. And they want a technology review in 2004 to ensure that the rules are feasible.
But auto makers also want uniform federal standards in 49 states.
Jo Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in response to the coalition proposal: ``We need a nationwide approach that integrates clean automobiles and clean fuel. State variations can complicate efforts to achieve cleaner air.''
The health and environmental groups argued that the Tier 2 rules are not as tough as they should be. The groups said they could be diluted further before adoption or delayed by court action.
``We have been around long enough to know that EPA's proposal represents a ceiling and not a floor to build from,'' the coalition wrote. It includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth, state chapters of the American Lung Association, Public Interest Research Groups and others.
Peter Iwanowicz, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association in New York state, said that, based on experience, he expects at least four states to adopt the new California rules.
They are New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine—states that previously chose old California rules over existing federal emissions standards.
Both Tier 2 and the new California rules, which would be effective in 2004, would lead to emissions cuts of as much as 95 percent from current levels.