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Press Releases

Attorney General William Tong

08/02/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG SUES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOR UNLAWFULLY CUTTING PENALTIES FOR INDUSTRY VIOLATIONS OF FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate coalition in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit challenging the Trump Administration's efforts to unlawfully undermine federal penalties for automakers who violate fuel efficiency standards.

A final rule issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reduces necessary penalties for automakers that fail to meet corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE). The rule repeals and replaces a rule adopted under the Obama Administration which imposed an inflation-adjusted penalty of $14 for every tenth of a mile-per-gallon (mpg) that an automaker falls below the CAFE standards, as required by the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act. NHTSA’s replacement rule would reduce the penalty for automakers violating standards to $5.50 per tenth of an mpg, an amount far below the inflation-adjusted penalty required by law.

"This shortsighted plan to gut fuel economy standards is an unlawful gift to Trump's oil and gas friends, with enormous, long-term consequences for the health of our planet and future generations of Americans," said Attorney General Tong. "Automakers themselves are frustrated by Trump's erratic, unpredictable and unlawful efforts to gut climate laws. Corporations don't want this chaos either. We are at a pivotal crossroads in the global fight to stem climate change. For our health, our economy and our environment, we cannot afford to backslide on fossil fuel consumption."

In the lawsuit, the Attorneys General assert NHTSA’s new rule is unlawful and rewards automakers that fail to manufacture fuel-efficient vehicles. The coalition argues that the replacement rule:
· Violates the Inflation Adjustment Act, which mandated that public agencies update their civil penalties to account for inflation using a clear timetable and formula for adjustment;
· Is based on an incorrect interpretation of the NHTSA’s statutory obligations;
· Conflicts with the intent of Congress, which did not exempt the CAFE penalty from mandatory inflation adjustment requirements; and
· Is based on inaccurate assumptions of the economic impact of the inflation-adjusted penalties.

This replacement rule follows a previous attempt by the Trump Administration to delay the updated penalty. Specifically, on July 12, 2017, NHTSA published a notice in the Federal Register to announce an indefinite delay of the penalty. However, following a lawsuit led by California and New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against the Administration on April 24, 2018.

Joining Connecticut, California and New York in filing lawsuit are the Attorneys General of Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Assistant Attorney Generals Scott Koschwitz and Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.

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