Federal Court Finds Bush Administration Violated Law by
Ignoring Global Warming in Setting National Gas-Mileage Standards,
Rejects Loophole for Trucks and SUVs
SAN FRANCISCO— The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today announced its ruling that the Bush government violated the law by ignoring global warming when it set national gas-mileage standards for SUVs and pickup trucks. The court sent the decision back to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a full Environmental Review of the gas-mileage standards.
The ruling, written by Senior Circuit Judge Betty Binns Fletcher, found against the administration’s decision to exempt SUVs and light trucks from fuel-economy standards. “That class 2b trucks have never been regulated by NHTSA is not a reason for not regulating them now. We remand to NHTSA to revisit this issue and promulgate average fuel economy standards for these vehicles, or to provide a validly reasoned basis for continuing to exclude them from the regulation.”
“This ruling is a big help in holding the Bush administration accountable for its refusal to accept the realities of global warming and forcing it to start taking responsible actions to implement the obvious solutions,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate, Air, and Energy program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Raising fuel-economy standards is one of the most effective actions the government can take to quickly and significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution. There’s no reason SUVs and light trucks should be exempt from these standards.”
The Ninth Circuit filed its decision on the case, Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Administration, No. 06-71891, heard by Senior Circuit Judge Betty Binns Fletcher, Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, and Sixth Circuit Senior Judge Eugene E. Siler. The case, filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, is consolidated with similar challenges by California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia, the city of New York, and four other public-interest groups, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, and Environmental Defense.
Plaintiffs argued that the administration violated the Energy Policy and Conservation Act by setting low fuel-economy standards of 22.5, 23.1, and 23.5 miles per gallon for upcoming model years 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively. Plaintiffs also argued that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions and global warming before selecting the low mileage standards.
"This is an important victory in the fight against global warming," said Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and the attorney of record on the case. "It's hard to imagine a federal action more significant to the problem of climate change than one which dictates fuel-consumption standards."
Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act in the wake of the 1973-1974 oil embargo as a technology-forcing statute to conserve energy and oil. The law requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set corporate average fuel-economy (CAFÉ) standards for SUVs and light trucks at the maximum feasible level.
The Ninth Circuit ruling can be downloaded at:
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.Contacts:
Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938 (cell)
Deborah Sivas, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, (650) 723-0325 (office), (650) 269-2489 (cell)
Amy Poftak, Stanford Law School, (650) 725-7516 (office)