Appeals Court Rejects Bush Administration's Fuel Economy StandardsAppeals Court Rejects Bush Administration's Fuel Economy Standards

A 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 pounds.

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.

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