Calif. Court Rejects SUV Mileage Rules

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, left, shown with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said his state's battle over emissions is
California Attorney General Jerry Brown, left, shown with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said his state's battle over emissions is "a fight for the future of America." (By Rich Pedroncelli -- Associated Press)
By Frank Ahrens and Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 16, 2007

A federal court in California yesterday rejected the Bush administration's new fuel economy standards for light trucks including SUVs, ruling that the government failed to take into account the effects of carbon emissions and their possible link to global warming.

The finding by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco was a victory for environmentalists and several states that had sued over fuel economy standards, which were announced in 2006. It is among several recent court rulings that have urged greater attention to global warming.

The court's ruling rejects mileage standards that were to have gone into effect next year and would have raised required average fuel economy for light trucks from 21.6 miles per gallon to 23.5 by 2010. The light truck category -- sport-utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans -- makes up 50.2 percent of the U.S. automobile market, with passenger cars accounting for the rest.

The court ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with new standards "as expeditiously as possible." Current standards for light trucks are likely to remain in effect until new ones can be formulated, officials said.

The ruling also questioned why the government persists in setting separate, lower standards for trucks. The mileage requirement for cars is 27.5 miles per gallon. The average fuel economy of each manufacturer's fleet of vehicles must meet the standard each year.

California joined nine other states, New York City, the District and groups including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council in the lawsuit against the federal government.

The Department of Transportation, which oversees NHTSA, had no comment on yesterday's ruling.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown hailed the court's decision, saying his state is in "protracted combat" with automakers over emissions.

"This is a fight for the future of America," Brown said in an interview. "I hope this lights a fire under Congress so they take some strong action."

Linda Singer, the D.C. attorney general, also applauded the decision.

"The District joined this challenge because, like many urban areas without industry, it is disproportionately affected by vehicular pollution," Singer said in a statement. "On a typical summer day, on-road vehicles in the District contribute approximately half of the pollutants that lead to smog."

Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department's civil division, said the government was reviewing the decision and "considering all of our options."

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