The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today has ruled in favor of California's lawsuit against federal mileage standards (California v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 06-72317). The court issued a 90-page opinion that strikes down recently-implemented CAFE standards for light-duty trucks (a category that includes SUVs and minivans) on several grounds, including the failure to take global warming into account. Warming Law analyzed the case back in May, in advance of oral arguments.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who argued the case (joined by eleven other states, the District of Columbia, New York City, and several environmental groups) is celebrating:
Commenting on the decision Attorney General Brown said, “This decision sends a clear message that the Congress must get serious about combating dangerous foreign oil dependency and global warming. This is a major victory and a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration and its failed energy policies.”
In May, Attorney General Brown had argued that the administration had failed to consider the effects of vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions on global warming, a requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act, when formulating new mileage standards. Brown asserted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s mileage standards violated federal law by ignoring both global warming and America’s “dangerous foreign oil dependency.”
Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act—adopted four decades ago in response to the Arab oil crisis—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations sets gas mileage standards for motor vehicles. The Administration, under Bush, ordered a pathetic one mile per gallon increase, from 22 to 23 miles per gallon by 2010, which Brown challenged in court as a violation of federal environmental law.
“A paltry one-mile-per gallon increase in gas mileage was clearly unlawful,” said Brown, “and today’s decision to reject that dangerously misguided policy is a victory for states that want to fight climate disruption and oil dependency.”
We'll have more on the decision as we read through the Court's opinion, which was written by Judge Betty Fletcher.
Brown's press release also links today's news to the ongoing national debate over CAFE standards, highlighting a letter that he wrote last week to congressional leaders asking them to ensure that sorely-needed fuel economy improvements do not preempt California's emissions standards (as some have attempted in the recent past). That letter was signed by 16 other states, and was directed at the proposed Hill-Terry amendment to the energy bill, which allows for a more moderate increase in efficiency and would expressly preempt state efforts.
Hill-Terry, by the way, is being supported by an expensive lobbying campaign bankrolled by the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers (spotlighted by the National Resources Defense Council's ongoing "How Green Is Toyota?" campaign), which also filed an amicus brief on behalf of NHTSA in this case and is fighting to preempt California's standards in federal district courts.