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Nine States, New York City and DC Sue NHTSA, Challenging Adequacy of CAFE Reform

Eight other state Attorneys General joined New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo in filing a lawsuit challenging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recent modifications of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks. (Earlier post.)

The lawsuit claims that the Bush Administration failed to address the impacts of the new federal fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks on air quality, fuel conservation and global climate change.

Specifically, the lawsuit, filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, alleges that the NHTSA failed to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), which require the government to determine the impacts of the new regulations on both fuel conservation and the environment.

At a time when consumers are struggling to pay surging gas prices and the challenge of global climate change has become even more clear, it is unconscionable that the Bush Administration is not requiring greater mileage efficiency for light trucks. The failure of this Administration to lead on vital environmental issues like this will burden our nation for generations to come.

—Attorney General Spitzer

The basis for the lawsuit is set forth in a comment letter by the plaintiffs submitted to NHTSA on 22 November 2005. The letter stated that NHTSA:

...failed to consider alternative approaches that would have promoted energy conservation, made meaningful contributions to increased fuel economy and encouraged technological innovation. In addition, NHTSA failed, in all respects, to consider the environmental consequences of its proposed overhaul of light truck standards, failed to consider the changes in the environment since its last Environmental Impact Statement in the 1980s, and failed to evaluate the impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions despite identifying the threat of CO2 and global climate change as new information concerning the environment.

The letter also stated that the standards, which shift the mile-per-gallon requirements from a fleet-wide basis to a new structure based on weight categories, “create incentives to build larger, less fuel-efficient models, which will jeopardize air quality and the climate.

The final standards, issued in March, also contain an attempt to argue for preemption of California’s landmark greenhouse gas law, also adopted by New York, requiring reductions in vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. The published document included a 52-page discussion asserting that only the federal government can regulate motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions.

Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta is seeking the authority from Congress to alter the CAFE rules for passenger cars, taking a similar approach to that applied to the light truck and SUV segment. (Earlier post.)

In addition to Attorney General Spitzer and Corporation Counsel Cardozo, the following Attorneys General are participating in the lawsuit: Bill Lockyer, California; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; G. Steven Rowe, Maine; Thomas. P Reilly, Massachusetts; Patricia A. Madrid, New Mexico; Hardy Myers, Oregon; Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island; William H. Sorrell, Vermont; and Robert J. Spagnoletti, District of Columbia.

The lawsuit on fuel economy standards comes on the heels of a lawsuit from almost the same set of plaintiffs charging that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to adopt strong emission standards to reduce air pollution—including carbon dioxide emissions—from new power plants across the nation. (Earlier post.)



What's up with Washington?

The standard "9 states, 2 cities" tends to include the same folks all the time. New Hampshire tends to be much more libertarian than their neighbors, which explains their constant absence. PA is Philly and Pittsburg with Southern Alabama betwixt so I wouldn't expect them, and NJ tends to be much more pragmatic than progressive.

It seems, though, that Washington would be joining in on these lawsuits. They seem to be the next obvious choice.

It would be nice to get them to join in, along with Delaware and Maryland at some point. But anybody know why Washington is conspicuously absent?

Robert Schwartz

6 months until elections, expect more meaningless gestures from ambitious officials.

Jesse Jenkins

That is curious that Washington has been absent ... but go Hardy Meyers! Sue the pants off the Fed...

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