Maine Joins Nine Other States In Suing Bush Administration Over Fuel Economy Standards

May 2, 2006

Today Attorney General Steve Rowe joined nine other state Attorneys General in filing a lawsuit challenging the Bush Administration's new fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks, alleging the rules fail to address the effects on the environment and global warming.

Rowe said, "It would be bad enough if this were just another case of large oil companies or automobile manufacturers directing federal fuel efficiency policies. Here, we also have the Bush Administration ignoring federal procedural requirements and proclaiming that states may not adopt the California new vehicle emission standards -- standards that are expressly authorized by the federal Clean Air Act."

"Gas prices are skyrocketing and autos are spewing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. Our federal government must do more than "talk the talk." If it can't "walk the walk," then it should get out of the states' way," said Rowe. Maine joined with nine other states, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York in filing the lawsuit in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit alleges the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in adopting the fuel economy standards, violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). Both federal laws require the government to determine the impacts of new regulations on fuel conservation and the environment.

The lawsuit's allegations mirror comments the plaintiffs submitted to NHTSA during the public review period on the rules. In a letter dated November, 2005, the plaintiffs said that NHTSA "failed to consider alternative approaches that would have promoted energy conservation, made meaningful contributions to increased fuel economy and encouraged technological innovation." In addition, the letter said, NHTSA failed to consider the environmental consequences of its proposed overhaul of light truck standards, failed to consider the changes in the environment since NHTSA last assessed the environmental effects of the standards in the 1980s, and failed to evaluate the impact of carbon dioxide ("CO2") emissions "despite identifying the threat of CO2 and global climate change as new information concerning the environment."

The letter also stated that the standards, which shift the miles-per-gallon requirements from a fleet-wide basis to a new structure based on weight categories, "create incentives to build larger, less fuel-efficient models, which will jeopardize air quality and the climate."

The final standards, issued in March, also contain an attempt by the Bush Administration to argue for federal preemption of California's landmark law requiring reductions in vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. The published rules included a 52-page discussion, irrelevant to the standards, asserting only the federal government can regulate motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions.

Joining in the lawsuit are Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Also joining are the District of Colombia and the City of New York.

Maine's Bureau of Environmental Protection adopted the California new vehicle emission standards in December, 2005.