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Environmentalists Protest Against Toyota in Santa Monica:

Individuals representing various environmental groups and concerned citizens gathered in front of the Toyota dealership at Lincoln and Santa Monica Boulevards to protest Toyota’s participation in a lawsuit against California for passing Assembly Bill 1493.

The bill, passed in 2002, directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to “develop and adopt regulations that achieve the maximum feasible and cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles” in order to help curb global warming. The law targets motor vehicles because the Legislature found that passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks are responsible for approximately 40 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the state. 

According to literature distributed at the October 22 protest, the automakers’ “suit argues that AB 1493 regulations are de facto fuel economy standards, which only the Federal government can set.” California is arguing, “CO2 is a pollutant, and California has long-established precedent for setting more stringent vehicle pollution standards than the Federal” government.

Former Santa Monica Planning Commission Chair Darrell Clarke told the Mirror, “We’re here because Toyota makes a big deal about being a green company.  One-third of the cars sold at its Santa Monica dealership are Priuses, yet Toyota is part of a lawsuit against” tougher car emissions standards.

In addition to asking Toyota to stop participating in the lawsuit, literature being handed out at the demonstration by Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network asked Toyota to “shift the auto industry away from our addiction to dirty oil” by building more fuel-efficient vehicles and utilizing existing technologies such as plug-in electric vehicles.

The president of Plug-In America, Linda Nichols, stated, “Toyota has no business being in a lawsuit with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.  It’s a step backward” for Toyota. 

Another protester, Zan Dubin-Scott, explained to the Mirror, “This is a public health issue, not just an environmental issue.  Thousands die prematurely every year because of auto pollution.  This is not a research project.  This is a life and death issue and a ticking time bomb!”

After CARB studied the issue and held hearings, it adopted the first AB 1493 regulations in September 2004.  The regulations require that starting in 2009 new cars have an average of one to two percent CO2 reduction depending on the vehicle type, and that the reductions increase to 30 percent by 2016.  CARB believes these reductions in CO2 emissions can be obtained through the use of existing technologies such as turbocharging smaller engines, efficient automatic transmissions, variable valve lift, and timing changes.

In addition to Toyota, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and Porsche make up the membership of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which announced the lawsuit in December 2004.  The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers joined the suit later on.

As of press time, calls to Toyota officials by the Mirror were not returned.

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