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Federal Appeals Court Invalidates Fuel Economy Regulations For Sport Utility Vehicles And Light Trucks

CONTACT: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-0269

Novemner 16, 2007 - Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that a federal appeals court in California struck down a rule issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that had established fuel economy standards for Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and light trucks for Model Years 2008-2011. In May 2006, Vermont had joined 9 other States, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in challenging the regulations.

“This is another welcomed and needed court victory for more fuel efficient motor vehicles and a healthier environment,” said Attorney General Sorrell. “In the same way that we recently joined the suit against the EPA for its delay in reviewing California’s stricter auto emissions standards, we will continue these fights until the federal government becomes a true leader in environmental protection.”

The court agreed with Vermont and the other states that NHTSA failed to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) because NHTSA did not adequately assess the impact that the rule would have on climate change and also because NHTSA failed to close the “loophole” for SUVs, which allowed them to have lower fuel economy requirements than other passenger vehicles. In addition, the court found in its 90-page opinion that NHTSA’s rule was “arbitrary and capricious” because the rule failed to ensure that manufacturers would be subject to a minimum fuel economy level as required by EPCA, and also because the rule did not set average fuel economy standards for all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds. Finally, the court held that NHTSA’s Environmental Assessment under NEPA was inadequate and remanded the rule to NHTSA to set new standards and to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement.

The decision was issued yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the lawsuit was led by the California Attorney General’s Office. Besides Vermont and California, the other States involved in the litigation were Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.

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