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SAN FRANCISCO) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush Administration’s new fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks, alleging the rules fail to address the effects on the environment and global warming.
“With gas prices skyrocketing, we must substantially increase fuel efficiency in new vehicles, not only to protect the pocketbooks of working families, but also to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming,” said Lockyer. “These rules fail that test by not requiring enough from the auto industry. The Bush Administration once again has missed an opportunity to promote new technology, fuel economy and conservation by issuing fuel economy goals that are status quo.”
Lockyer joined with nine other state Attorneys General, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in filing the lawsuit in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit alleges the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in adopting the fuel economy standards, violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). Both federal laws require the government to determine the impacts of new regulations on fuel conservation and the environment.
The lawsuit’s allegations mirror comments the plaintiffs submitted to NHTSA during the public review period on the rules. In a November, 2005 letter, the plaintiffs stated 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, the letter said, NHTSA failed to consider the environmental consequences of its proposed overhaul of light truck standards, failed to consider the changes in the environment since the 1980s, when NHTSA last assessed the environmental effects of the standards, 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 miles-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 by the Bush Administration to argue for federal preemption of California’s landmark law requiring reductions in vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. The published rules included a 52-page discussion, irrelevant to the standards, asserting only the federal government can regulate motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions.
The California vehicle standards are currently under legal challenge from the auto industry. Lockyer filed in April a lawsuit under the federal Freedom of Information Act to force the federal Office of Management and Budget to disclose documents that record any Bush Administration discussions with the auto industry about the push to preempt California’s law.
Lockyer said the weak miles-per-gallon standards for SUVs and light trucks call into question President Bush’s request last week for Congress to authorize him to raise standards for cars.
“President Bush is making empty promises to Americans about fuel economy,” added Lockyer. “He wants Congress to give him authority because he claims he will increase gas mileage in cars, but he has failed to set meaningful increases for gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks.”
Joining California in the lawsuit are Attorneys General from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Also joining are the District of Colombia and the City of New York.