Several states and environmental groups are pushing the federal government to ratchet up harsher civil penalties on car companies that violate fuel emission standards.
Attorneys general from New York, Vermont, California, Pennsylvania, and Maryland requested a federal court to force National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into administering harsh emission penalties on automakers. They believe the NHTSA is dragging its feet on the issue.
“Automakers are deciding, now, whether to comply with fuel-economy standards based on the applicable penalty: delaying the long-overdue penalty increase will thus lead to less efficient vehicles and greater emissions of harmful air pollutants,” they wrote Tuesday in a memo to the court.
The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council joined New York AG Eric Schneiderman in urging the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to enforce new rules on the corporate average fuel economy. They believe the NHTSA is stalling to help the auto industry avoid the standards.
“Meanwhile, the only countervailing purpose for the delay is to make it easier for automakers to evade the standards,” they added. The rule boosted the fines, which had not been indexed to inflation, from $5.50 per a tenth of a mile per gallon to $14 starting with the model year 2019 vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) historically encouraged consumers to purchase non-gas guzzling vehicles, while the NHTSA has expressed concerns that more fuel-efficient vehicles may lead to increased traffic fatalities. Schneiderman and the other AGs are part of a group of liberal law enforcers crusading against President Donald Trump’s climate policies.
A group of 14 state attorneys general — including Schneiderman, who many argue is Trump’s most prominent opponent – notified the agency in a letter in September of the group’s intention of suing for missing an Oct. 1 deadline to decide which states do not meet the Obama administration’s ozone standards.
Department of Justice attorneys asked the Court of Appeals earlier this year for the District of Columbia to reschedule arguments in a lawsuit against the Obama-era rule while the EPA reviews the law.
The Trump administration was forced to end the delay on the ozone rule in August after attorneys general sued to prevent EPA Chief Scott Pruitt from extending the deadline.
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