Governor Says Montana Couldn’t Set Own Car Emission Standards

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Tuesday that Montana can’t set its own fuel efficiency and emissions standards as suggested in a global warming report because the state has too little buying power.

Schweitzer made the comments in an interview after meeting with a representative of the automobile manufacturers, who are opposed to individual states setting standards.

Schweitzer said that he has long believed that a patchwork of different state approaches on such issues will not work. He says Congress needs to adopt nationwide standards for improved economy and efficiency.

“I don’t prefer Balkanization,” Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer said California is large enough it might be able to force the car industry to make changes. But a state like Montana doesn’t have enough residents to do so.

“They are never going to make vehicles just for us,” Schweitzer said.

The governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee came up with several vehicle-related suggestions among the 54 included in the report.

That report is currently in a legislative committee, where it has been the focus of criticism from some lawmakers who say it goes to far. Some Republicans lawmakers also say that the global warming threat is overstated or not real.

One of the 54 recommendations in the report says the state should go beyond federal emissions standards.

Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Schweitzer that the companies have agreed to meet a new fuel efficiency standard set by Congress. It would be too difficult for the car makers to then try to meet several different state standards.

But he said car makers are not shirking their duty by opposing state standards. He said it simply creates too many engineering problems.

“We believe climate change is real, and we want to be part of the solution,” said McCurdy, a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma. “We want to make sure from a regulatory standpoint that they don’t keep moving the goal posts.”

The association has opposed California’s effort to crack down on auto emissions.

He said the industry wants to meet federal standards, and be a partner in developing new fuel and vehicle technologies.

“We have to be careful how we move the system,” he said. “We believe there should be one national standard for fuel economy.”

Schweitzer said Congress should lead on standards, and also lead the way on paying for research and development on diesel, electric, hybrid and other technologies.

Schweitzer, however, said states have been pushing the global warming issue since Congress has not.