An environmental group challenged the Bush administration's new fuel
economy standards for light trucks in federal court Thursday, saying the new
requirements were not stringent enough and would only worsen global warming and
the nation's oil addiction.
The Center for Biological Diversity asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco to review the legality of the rules announced last
week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for sport utility
vehicles and other light trucks from 2008 through 2011. The standard now
requires the vehicles to achieve 21.6 mpg and is scheduled to rise to 22.2 mpg
for 2007 models; under the new criteria, the requirement in 2011 would be 24.1
Both Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and the Alliance of Automobile
Manufacturers described the new standards as tough and challenging for the auto
industry. But the environmental group said the government is flouting a 1975
law that requires fuel economy standards to be set at the "maximum feasible
"The fuel efficiency increases are minuscule compared to what is possible
with existing technology and the major reforms urgently needed to cut air
pollution, combat global climate change and save money at the gas pump,'' said
Peter Galvin, conservation director of the organization headquartered in
A 38 mpg benchmark can be readily achieved by 2015, the organization said.
It said the government, in its justification of the standards, had failed to
mention the environmental impact of its decision to propose only a small
increase in fuel economy.
Deborah Sivas, lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the
government merely declared that its new standard would cause no environmental
harm because it represents an increase in fuel efficiency over the current
standard. She contended federal law requires the government to consider a
reasonable range of alternatives, including technologically achievable
miles-per-gallon requirements, and discuss the environmental consequences of
choosing a lesser standard.
"We can't really have an informed public debate when that whole part of
the discussion is truncated,'' Sivas said.
In comments submitted to the federal agency while it was considering the
standards, the environmental group attacked the proposal on multiple grounds,
including the lack of any discussion of its impact on global warming and the
government's assumption that gasoline would cost between $1.51 and $1.58 per
gallon from 2008 through 2011. As a result, the government seriously
underestimated the benefits of greater fuel economy, the group said.
California's Attorney General Bill Lockyer has also attacked the new
federal standards, in part because the Bush administration declared that
California lacked authority to regulate motor vehicles' emissions of carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Lockyer, who is defending California's
first-in-the-nation law on greenhouse gases in a suit by automakers, has not
yet decided whether to challenge the federal rules in court, said spokesman Tom
© 2006 San Francisco Chronicle