Appeals Court Rejects Bush Administration's Fuel Economy StandardsAppeals Court Rejects Bush Administration's Fuel Economy Standards
federal appeals court rebuked the Bush administration's corporate
average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for sport-utility vehicles and
other light-duty trucks. The administration was ordered to draft
stricter standards (Center for Biological Diversity vs. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9th Cir., No. 06-71891, November 15, 2007).
The court found that the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) failed to meet the requirements of the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation
Act (EPCA) because NHTSA did not adequately assess the impact that the
rule would have on climate change and also because NHTSA failed to
close the "loophole" for SUVs, which allowed them to have lower fuel
economy requirements than other passenger vehicles. In addition, the
court stated that NHTSA's rule was "arbitrary and capricious" because
not only did the rule fail to ensure that manufacturers would be
subject to a minimum fuel economy level as required by EPCA, but also
because the rule did not set average fuel economy standards for all
vehicles with a gross vehicle weight between 8,500 pounds and 10,000
Finally, the court held that NHTSA's Environmental Assessment under
NEPA was inadequate and remanded the rule to NHTSA to set new standards
and to prepare a full environmental impact statement.
The standards, announced in March 2006, required most passenger
trucks to boost fuel economy from 22.5 milers per gallon (mpg) in 2008
to at least 23.5 mpg by 2010. Eleven states, two cities and four
environmental groups sued the administration after it announced the new
fuel economy standards last year.
"A paltry one-mile-per gallon increase in gas mileage was clearly
unlawful, and (this) decision to reject that dangerously misguided
policy is a victory for states that want to fight climate disruption
and oil dependency," California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown said.
Officials with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers stated that
the 2008-2011 light truck fuel economy rule represented the largest
fuel economy increase in the history of the CAFE program and that any
changes to the CAFE program would only delay the progress that
manufacturers have made towards increasing fleet wide fuel economy.
The court's decision can be accessed at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov.