Sierra Club Victory: Court Tosses Out Bush Administration Light Truck Fuel Economy Standards
November 15, 2007
Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a huge victory for the Sierra Club, several other environmental groups, and several states by voiding the Bush administration’s fuel economy standards for light trucks. The case was filed May 23, 2006 in response to light truck fuel economy standards finalized by the administration in April 2006. The suit alleged that the standards failed to follow the process prescribed by law and that the administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in promulgating the light truck standards for 2008-2011.
In 1975, Congress directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set new light truck fuel economy standards for each new model year at the "maximum feasible" level. The light trucks standards for 2008-2011, at issue in this case, would raise fuel economy by only 1.8 miles per gallon over that period of time.
Statement of Pat Gallagher, Director of Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program
"This decision is a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, its continued insistence on ignoring the law, and stubborn refusal to take meaningful steps to address global warming pollution from automobiles. NHTSA is free to use a cost-benefit analysis to set fuel economy standards, but today the court told them they cannot put a thumb on the scale by continuing to ignore the costs of failing to act on global warming.
"As light trucks account for 8 percent of global warming emissions in the U.S., requiring the administration to go back and make a new standard that meaningfully addresses these emissions is a huge victory. Likewise, closing the so-called SUV loophole will also help us lower our global warming emissions and end our dangerous dependence on oil.
"Finally, the court ordered the administration to go back and do a full Environmental Impact Statement. The Bush administration can no longer simply ignore its legal responsibility to do so because it finds it inconvenient."
May 14, 2007
On May 14th, 2007 the Sierra Club's challenge to the Bush administration's CAFE rules for SUVs and pickup trucks went before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. This suit seeks to compel the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to take action on its urgent responsibility to save energy. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act compels NHTSA to set CAFE at "maximize feasible" fuel savings, limited only by technical feasibility and avoiding severe hardship to manufacturers, giving due consideration to the nation’s urgent need to conserve fuel. Instead, NHTSA has set fuel economy standards for model year 2008 at just 22.5 miles per gallon, forgoing greater fuel savings that are achievable and sorely needed from energy security and environmental perspectives.
In Monday's hour long hearing the Sierra Club and its co-petitioners informed the court that the NHTSA "totally omitted the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions" by assigning a zero value to these reduction in their cost-benefit calculations. Essentially, NHTSA blatantly ignored the most significant environmental benefit of tougher CAFE standards – reductions in CO2 emissions which contribute to climate change. When asked by Judge Michael Hawkins to explain why NHTSA assigned a zero value , U.S. Justice Department attorney Thomas Byron replied that the benefits of carbon dioxide reduction were thought to be relatively small. However, the biggest single step that United States can take to reduce global warming is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by raising fuel economy.
A decision is expected in the case within two to three months, and the Sierra Club is hopeful that the court will send NHTSA back to the drawing board to set new, tougher CAFE standards that will help stem global warming and increase our energy security.
May 23, 2006
The Sierra Club took legal action on May 23, 2006 to reverse the Bush administration's recent rule that increases fuel economy for light truck and SUVs by a paltry two miles per gallon for model years 2008-2011. The Club had submitted comments on the rule pointing out that mileage could be increased to forty miles per gallon in the same time frame. Given the increasing concern over global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration's weak rule is inexcusable. The new fuel economy standards will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by approximately 61 million tons during the life of the vehicles affected. In contrast, if the administration had taken leadership and moved the standard to forty miles per gallon, approximately 750 million tons of carbon dioxide would be removed from our atmosphere. The stakes are high and the right choice could not be clearer. The Sierra Club's lawsuit, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, asserts that the administration's rule violates both the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Club is joined by petitioner Public Citizen in this action.
Details and Documents:
California Court Rejects SUV Mileage Rules
November 16, 2007 By Frank Aherns and Carrie Johnson, Washington Post
Court tells U.S. to rethink fuel economy standards for many vehicles
November 15, 2007 By Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee
Court tosses new fuel standards for SUVs, trucks, cites threat of global warming
November 15, 2007 By Matthew Yi, San Francisco Chronicle
California Sues Bush Adminstration Over Gas Standards
May 14, 2007 By Associated Press, CBS5.com
Environmental Group Sues in Calif. Court Over Gas Mileage Rules
May 23, 2006 By Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer, San Francisco Chronicle
Sierra Club Sues Over Mileage: Environmental Group Says Bush Administration's New Requirements Don't Do Enough
May 23, 2006 By Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer, CBS News
Lawsuit & Website Take on Bush Administration Over Fuel Economy Standards
May 23, 2006 Sierra Club Press Release
Petition for Review
Sierra Club and Public Citizen petition in US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Sierra Club's "I want my MPG" mpg calculator.
Calculate what improved fuel efficiency would save both you and the planet.
See other "Fighting Dirty Oil and Promoting Green Transportation" cases.