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Appeals Court Ruling May Lead to Tighter Fuel Standards for Light Trucks

November 19, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A federal court last Thursday ruled that the Bush administration must write tougher fuel economy standards for SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks in order to address greenhouse gas emissions. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took issue with a federal loophole that lets such vehicles get fewer miles per gallon than passenger cars. This was the third time this year that a federal court has ruled in favor of state governments and environmental groups challenging the Bush administration's fuel efficiency regulations. The lawsuit was filed by California, 10 other states and the cities of New York and Washington against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA is responsible for setting vehicle mileage requirements. The lawsuit argued that the new federal mpg standards announced in March 2006, which seek to raise average mileage for light trucks to 23.5 mpg by 2010, were far too lax. The change was called "trivial." Automakers are now required to achieve an average fuel economy of 22.2 mpg for these popular vehicles. The court ruled that the NHTSA set standards that were "arbitrary and capricious" because they failed to address the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment and economy. The court also ruled that it was unfair to hold light trucks to less strict standards than passenger cars. The Bush administration said it is reviewing options and hasn't decided yet to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the appeals court decision isn't stayed, the U.S. Department of Transportation will be required to write new fuel economy rules, the Times reported. Meanwhile, Congress is addressing the mpg issue too, working to reconcile two energy bills. The Senate version would eliminate the so-called SUV loophole and raise mileage for all vehicles from an average of 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020.
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