• 07-26-2010 | 10:23 PM
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Marten Law Group: By Taking Action on Fuel Economy Standards, President Orders Automakers to Produce More Fuel Efficient Cars

In this Emerging Issues Analysis, Alyssa Moir of Marten Law Group reports on two Executive Orders issued in January 2009 by President Obama: (1) a request to EPA to revisit the denial of California's CAA waiver request to lower auto emission standards, and (2) an order to the NHTSA to issue interim nationwide corporate average fuel economy standards. These Orders amount to a directive to the auto industry to produce more fuel efficient vehicles.

“President Obama, in the first environmental directive of his Administration, requested EPA to revisit an earlier Bush-era decision to deny California’s Clean Air Act waiver request to lower auto emission standards,” Ms. Moir writes.  “The waiver, denied in late 2007, and subsequently challenged in court, would allow California to require automakers, over time, to meet tailpipe emissions standards for carbon dioxide that are 30% below current standards. Fourteen other states, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Washington, have enacted legislation or rules that would allow them to adopt the California standards once the waiver is granted, as now seems all but certain. These states, taken together, represent the market for half of all the cars sold in the United States.

“In a related but separate directive, the President also ordered the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue interim nationwide corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards by the end of March. The CAFE standards, unlike the California standards, will apply nationwide, and require increased fuel economy for cars and light trucks. The increased CAFE standards were included in the 2007 Energy and Independence Security Act, but never promulgated. The proposed interim national standards apply to vehicles produced in 2010 for the 2011 model year.

“Taken together, the two Executive Orders amount to a directive by the President to the U.S. automotive industry to produce more fuel efficient automobiles, immediately. The industry, meanwhile, is scrambling to come up with a business model to present to the Administration to justify bailout money it says it needs to survive,” Ms. Moir notes.

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Alyssa Moir of the Marten Law Group practices environmental and land use litigation with a focus on renewable energy, climate change issues, hazardous waste cleanup, and permitting in the Pacific Northwest. Alyssa earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Washington School of Law where she served on the Editorial Board of the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal and provided pro bono services through the Environmental Law Clinic. Prior to joining the Marten Law Group, Alyssa was a law clerk to the Honorable Marlin J. Appelwick, Washington State Court of Appeals, Division 1.