Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Attorney general sues over 'weak' gas mileage rules

SAN FRANCISCO California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. is accusing the Bush administration of siding with the auto industry by illegally adopting “dangerously misguided” gas mileage rules for SUVs, pickups and minivans.

Brown, in a lawsuit backed by 11 states and several environmental organizations, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s new mileage standards violate federal law by ignoring both the environment and our country’s growing dependence on foreign oil.

The lawsuit, which was argued Monday in a San Francisco federal appeals court, accuses the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of ordering only a trivial increase in vehicle mileage standards an increase from 22.2 mpg to 23.5 mpg by 2010. Such administrative action is contrary to federal rules mandating energy conservation, according to a statement from Brown's office.

The administration should have considered the effects of the vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions on global warming when formulating new mileage standards, the lawsuit alleges. Had the administration done so, the government would have demanded greater fuel efficiency, according to the lawsuit.

“After years of neglect, it is unconscionable to increase vehicle mileage standards by only one mile per gallon,” Brown said outside the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case was argued Monday. “We are asking the court to reject this dangerously misguided policy that exacerbates global warming and enriches foreign sponsors of terrorism.”

When approving the regulations last year, the Bush administration primarily emphasized the financial costs to the auto industry instead of seriously considering the cost to the environment and people's health, lawyers for Brown and the other plaintiffs argued Monday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Suing along with Brown are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, the District of Columbia, New York City, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club.

About 8 percent of the United States' greenhouse gas emissions come from the vehicles at issue.

Some say global warming does not exist, but even the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged it, according to Brown's statement.

On April 2, the Supreme Court demanded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consider adopting regulations to combat climate change.

In that case, the high court wrote "the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized." The Supreme Court noted environmental changes "have already inflicted significant harms" from retreating glaciers, to early spring snow melts to an "accelerated rate of rise of sea levels during the 20th century relative to the past few thousand years."

The lawsuit accuses the Bush administration of violating the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and says greater fuel efficiency is vital "to avert environmental disaster."

The National Environmental Policy Act and other regulations require the Bush administration, when formulating new mileage standards, to consider the effects of the vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions on global warming, which the Bush administration failed to do, Brown said.

Instead, the Bush administration adopted a standard oblivious to how manmade pollution is harming the environment and changing the climate, Brown claimed.

On Monday, at the same time as the lawsuit was being argued in San Francisco, President Bush gave an address in the White House Rose Garden in which he stated his desire “to cut America’s gasoline usage by 20 percent.”

Brown said that he applauded the president’s favorable comments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting back on gas-guzzling, but urged the president to take two immediate steps: tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant California and 12 other states permission to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and junk last year’s token 1-mile-per gallon increase in fuel efficiency standards and “propose something real.”

“The president doesn’t offer a single concrete proposal on how to combat global warming and instead directs his bureaucracy 'to work together’ to come up with a plan,” Brown said. “California already has a plan that can be adopted immediately.”

Arguing for California and the other states is California Deputy Attorney General Susan S. Fiering.

A decision by the three-judge appeals court panel is expected anytime.

The case is California v. National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, 06-72317.

Court records in the case can be found at: www.ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/.


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