State And City Sue For Better Fuel Efficiency Standards

Attorney General Spitzer and New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo today filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush Administration for failing to address the impacts of its new federal fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks on air quality, fuel conservation and global climate change.

"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," said Attorney General Spitzer. "The failure of this Administration to lead on vital environmental issues like this will burden our nation for generations to come."

"Given the number of light trucks that travel daily around New York City, the NHTSA should not have ignored, among other things, the significant environmental effects of the carbon dioxide emitted from such vehicles that contribute to climate change," said New York City Corporation Counsel Cardozo. "The City remains concerned about the adverse impacts from global warming that our residents, infrastructure, and resources have and will continue to experience in light of the City’s coastal, island geography and extremely dense urban population."

Spitzer and Cardozo were joined in the filing by eight other state Attorneys General and the District of Columbia. The lawsuit, filed today in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, alleges 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), which require the government to determine the impacts of the new regulations on both fuel conservation and the environment.

The basis for the lawsuit is set forth in a comment letter by the plaintiffs submitted to NHTSA on November 22, 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 by the Administration to argue for preemption of California’s landmark 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.

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.

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