Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sent the Bush Administration's revised automotive fuel economy standards back to the Department of Transportation for reconsideration. Under the Bush Administration, the DoT modestly tightened the fuel economy standards governing light trucks, but also increased the flexibility afforded automakers by basing future light-truck fuel economy standards on vehicle size, rather than an overall fleet average.
In this case, Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, several states and environmental groups challenged the Bush Administration's new federal fuel economy standards for light trucks on several grounds, including the failure to fulfill the requirements of the Energy Policy Conservation Act or comply with the National Environmental Impact Statement. The court, in an opinion by Judge Betty Fletcher, ruled favorably on most of the challenges.
We hold that the Final Rule is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the EPCA in its failure to monetize the value of carbon missions, failure to set a backstop, failure to close the SUV loophole, and failure to set fuel economy standards for all vehicles in the 8,500 to 10,000 gross vehicle weight rating ("GVWR") class. We also hold that the Environmental Assessment was inadequate and that Petitioners have raised a substantial question as to whether the Final Rule may have a significant impact on the environment. Therefore, we remand to NHTSA to promulgate new standards as expeditiously as possible and to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement.Senior Sixth Circuit Judge Eugene Siler (sitting by designation) dissented in part, objecting only to the court's conclusion that the failure to include a "backstop" was arbitrary and capricious. In a one paragraph opinion, Judge Siler said he did not find this aspect of the rule arbitrary because such a backstop was not required by the authorizing statute.
The decision was covered in the New York Times, and prompted commentary on the Warming Law blog (see also here). Time permitting, I'll have more to say about this interesting and important decision as well.