Rules hurt energy independence as gas prices soar, Governor says
Today Governor Ted Kulongoski and Attorney General Hardy Myers filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush Administration's new fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks, alleging the rules fail to address global warming and other harmful effects on the environment. The state also challenges an assertion in this new federal rule that claims that only the federal government can regulate motor vehicle carbon dioxide emissions.
"The greatest environmental challenge facing our nation is global warming, and our dependence on foreign oil threatens the financial security of working families as gas prices rise to more than three dollars a gallon," Governor Kulongoski said. "In Oregon, we are taking aggressive measures to reduce vehicle emissions and to establish energy independence through the use and production of renewable fuels, both of which are at risk as a result of these rules."
Oregon joined 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 process by which the federal government adopted its fuel emissions standards was deeply flawed and the outcome is bad public policy," stated Attorney General Hardy Myers. "The federal government should have considered the effect of fuel economy standards on the environment, and the rules should not prevent states from taking the independent action to protect the environment," he added.
The lawsuit mirrors comments the plaintiffs submitted to NHTSA during the public review period on the rules. In a November 2005 letter, the plaintiffs said NHTSA "failed to consider alternative approaches that would have promoted energy conservation, made meaningful contributions to increased fuel economy and encouraged technological innovation."
The letter also said NHTSA failed to consider the environmental consequences of its proposed overhaul of light truck standards. In addition, the agency failed to consider the changes in the environment since the 1980s, when NHTSA last assessed the environmental effects of the standards, the letter said, and failed to evaluate the impact of carbon dioxide emissions "despite identifying the threat of carbon dioxide 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 to argue for federal preemption of state laws requiring reductions in vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. Governor Kulongoski has pushed for stricter carbon emission standards for new vehicles, beginning with the 2009 model year. At the Governor's request, the state Environmental Quality Commission adopted tough temporary rules similar to California's emission standards in December 2005. The Commission has held hearings throughout the state, received thousands of public comment, and expects to adopt permanent rules at the end of next month.
"The citizens of Oregon should not be asked to sit passively as they see diminishing snow packs every year and skyrocketing gas prices every week," the Governor said. "We are trying to address these pressing issues, and this administration should allow us to exercise that right."
Joining California in the lawsuit are Attorneys General from 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.
Lonn Hoklin, (503) 378-6169
Stephanie Soden, DOJ, (503) 378-6002