5 AGs sue over Trump delaying higher fines for automakers

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Five state attorneys general sued the Trump administration today for delaying higher penalties for automakers that don’t meet fuel economy targets.

The lawsuit asks the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to indefinitely delay an Obama-era rule tripling penalties for automakers.

In announcing its decision in July, the agency said it wanted to reconsider “appropriate” fines in its corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) program.

The state attorneys general who filed suit are led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman and California’s Xavier Becerra, who were joined by the attorneys general of Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Environmental groups filed a similar petition last week (E&E News PM, Sept. 7).

Automakers oppose the Obama rule, which would bring fines to $14 from $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon below compliance. The rule was a response to 2015 legislation requiring agencies to adjust their fines for inflation. The Obama administration had already agreed to delay the start date of the increase by a year per the industry’s request.

The auto industry is projected to miss its CAFE targets in 2016 and 2017, but most manufacturers can still comply by carrying over credits earned in the early years of the regulation.

NHTSA has collected millions of dollars in fines from automakers as part of the CAFE program. The fine amounts were last updated in 1997.

The attorneys general say NHTSA’s indefinite delay of the updated fines violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.

“Fuel efficiency standards are common sense, protecting Americans’ pocketbooks and reducing the emissions that undermine public health and drive climate change,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Yet again and again, the Trump administration sides against New Yorkers and our environment.”