States sue over reduced fuel economy penalties

Source: By Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, August 5, 2019

A coalition of states is taking the Trump administration to court for cutting penalties automakers must pay when they fall short of fuel efficiency standards.

California, New York and other states led by Democratic attorneys general filed suit today in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration broke the law when it slashed the penalty rate.

Under NHTSA’s new rule, the rate is fixed at $5.50 per 0.1 mile per gallon, down from the Obama-era rate of $14. The fines apply to automakers that don’t meet corporate average fuel economy requirements.

The move was welcomed by automakers but criticized by environmentalists and others (E&E News PM, July 15).

The new state lawsuit says the reduction violates the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act and should be overturned.

“Fuel efficient cars on our roads are good for the economy, the environment, and our health,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Our nation’s CAFE standards have proven their value.”

Joining California and New York in the suit are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and the District of Columbia.

Many were involved in a successful legal challenge last year to an earlier attempt by the Trump administration to avoid applying the Obama-era penalty rate.

The new lawsuit comes as federal, state and environmental lawyers gear up for a bigger anticipated fight over the Trump administration’s impending rollback of fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles.