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Second Circuit blocks plan to suspend fuel economy penalty increase

[JURIST] The Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] on Monday vacated [order, PDF] a decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [official website] to delay increases of fines paid by automakers under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) [materials] program.

Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation
Adjustment Act Improvements Act
[text], the penalties paid by car and truck manufacturers for exceeding designated fuel economy standards were set to rise from $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon to $14. Following a petition filed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers [advocacy websites], NHTSA agreed to delay [rule, PDF] the implementation of the increased penalties until the 2019 model year. In July, NHTSA decided [rule, PDF] to delay the increased fines indefinitely while it reconsidered the appropriate penalty for CAFE violations.

The National Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club [advocacy websites] filed suit in September seeking to vacate the decision [petition, PDF]. The Second Circuit granted that relief Monday, although its reasoning is not immediately clear as the order was issued without an accompanying opinion.

Calling the ruling a "victory for consumers, our economic security, public health and the planet," NRDC attorney Irene Gutierrez said [press release]

The Trump administration should be standing up for the public that overwhelmingly supports strong fuel economy standards and enforcing strong penalties on automakers that fail to meet those standards.The Court’s ruling restores the proper penalty, trued up to account for decades of inflation. The updated penalty impels automakers to clean up their fleets, rather than offering them a cheap license to burn more gas if they fail to keep pace with fuel economy targets.

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