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GM Sues Over California's
Electric Vehicle Requirement

By Leon Drouin Keith   Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES — General Motors sued California's air-quality board Friday, contending that its requirement that automakers produce thousands more electric vehicles illegally ignores cheaper and safer pollution-fighting options.

The pollution reductions generated by the electric vehicle requirements would be about 150 times more expensive than any other Air Resources Board rule, GM officials argue.

"There's no problem with technically being able to do it," said Dennis R. Minano, GM vice president for environment and energy. "The issue is it doesn't make sense in terms of being a good policy in terms of the clean-air impact."

GM officials add that the rules would encourage automakers to meet their zero emission quotas with golf-cart-sized commuter cars that would endanger motorists sharing the road with much larger vehicles.

The lawsuit was filed by GM and three of its California dealers in Contra Costa County Superior Court.

Air board spokesman Jerry Martin said GM's "plan was to sue us all along. They never intended to try to meet requirements of the (zero emission vehicle) rule or discuss with us any options that were viable."

Sandra Spelliscy, an attorney for the Planning and Conservation League, said GM is using "a lot of old, tired arguments that do not ring true."

"The program has been scrutinized and debated and picked over for a decade. The state has finally said we are going to go forward, that we are never going to have clean air unless we have zero emission vehicles on the road."

Martin said other automakers, including Ford Motor Co., have indicated they're willing to comply with the rules.

Friday was the last day revisions to the mandate approved last month could be legally contested.

That mandate would have required automakers to sell about 22,000 electric vehicles a year starting in 2003, but revisions the board approved last month trimmed that quota to as few as 4,650.

California currently has about 2,300 electric vehicles, which are more expensive than gasoline-powered cars and have a more limited range.

By the air board's own estimates, the zero emission vehicle mandate would cost $1.8 million for every ton of pollution it keeps out of the air. The most expensive rule the board has approved besides that one costs only about $11,000 a ton, Minano said.

GM officials said despite the lawsuit, the company remains committed to reducing motor vehicle air pollution through research and development of hybrid vehicles and fuel cells, among other avenues.

"To us, this is not about whether we will meet California's clean air goals, but how we should meet them," Minano said.

Associated Press writer Steve Lawrence contributed to this report.

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