WASHINGTON, April 23, 2018 — A federal appellate court today reversed the Trump administration’s delay of higher penalties for new cars and trucks that violate minimum fuel-economy standards.
“Americans will breathe easier because the court undid the Trump administration’s bizarre attempt to encourage toxic tailpipe pollution,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Cheap fines incentivize automakers to produce gas-guzzlers that fuel climate change and spew harmful pollutants. Reinstating proper penalties will help protect our kids’ lungs and our planet’s future.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration imposes penalties for each one-tenth of a mile by which vehicles fall below corporate average fuel-economy standards. Automakers either install fuel- and pollution-saving technology or pay penalties, whichever is cheaper.
In part in response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, the traffic-safety administration in 2016 adjusted the penalties for inflation — from $5.50 to $14 — for the first time in nearly two decades. But under the Trump administration, it suspended the increase indefinitely without notice or comment in July 2017. The Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club petitioned the court to overturn the suspension.
Today’s decision from the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reinstates the penalty to $14, as required by Congress.
Automobiles are now America’s largest source of carbon pollution. Corporate average fuel-economy standards for new cars and trucks are designed to make the nation’s vehicle fleets more fuel-efficient. Cars and trucks that burn less fuel also emit fewer pollutants like particulate matter and ground-level ozone that cause severe health problems.
“This decision will deter automakers from flouting critical standards and stalling the transition away from dirty, dangerous fossil fuels,” Pardee said. “Our victory should send a message to the Trump administration that courts do not condone unlawful rollbacks of fundamental environmental protections.”