Rewrite fuel economy standards, U.S. appeals court rules

Rewrite fuel economy standards, U.S. appeals court rules http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071115/BUSINESS01/71115035/1014
A federal appeals court ordered U.S. auto regulators on Thursday to
rewrite fuel economy rules for trucks that went into effect with 2008 models, saying the agency ignored the law and set the standards too low.
The ruling orders the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set new rules for trucks as soon as possible. But with automakers already working on 2012 models and the agency under orders from President George W. Bush to come up with new rules for models beyond 2012, it’s not clear how much room regulators have to maneuver.
Environmental groups and 11 states sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2006 following its decision to set new standards for trucks through the 2011 model year. The groups argued that NHTSA’s increase of 1.5 miles per gallon over four years was insufficient, and that the agency ignored the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases.
The agency sets fuel economy standards by balancing the cost of higher standards on automakers and consumers with the benefits in fuel savings. Despite pleas from environmental groups when it set the standards in 2006, NHTSA put no value on how much carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by the rules, saying there was no consensus on how much a ton of carbon was worth.
A lower court ruled for NHTSA, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found for the states and environmental groups on most of their arguments. A three-judge panel found that NHTSA should have put some value on carbon emissions, as it was able to put a cost on other hard-to-measure benefits.
The agency “cannot put a thumb on the scale by undervaluing the benefits and overvaluing the costs of more stringent standards,” said Judge Betty Fletcher in a ruling.
The panel also said NHTSA made several other errors, including not setting rules for heavy trucks, failing to set a “backstop” for changes to the system and not closing the SUV loophole that allows sport-utility vehicles to meet less-stringent standards for trucks rather than those for cars.
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