A U.S. appeals court on Thursday threw out the government's new fuel economy standards for many sport-utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks in a victory for environmentalists.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the standards, which were to go into effect next year, did not properly assess the risk to the environment and failed to include heavier SUVs and trucks, among several other deficiencies the court found.
The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by 11 states and environmental groups that argued federal regulators ignored the effects of carbon dioxide emissions when calculating fuel economy standards for light trucks.
The new mileage standards, announced in March 2006, required an increase in the average fuel economy for all passenger trucks sold in the United States from 22.2 miles per gallon to 23.5 miles per gallon by 2010.
Filed last year, the suit sought to force the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recalculate its mileage standards from scratch, with carbon dioxide emissions taken into account as a major factor in the agency's analysis.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that California won't back down from the lawsuit — but will stick to its plan to put tougher standards in place by the 2009 model year despite protests from the auto industry.
"We understand the way the corporate world works, and we understand the way lawyers work. They will do everything they can to stop it, and we will do everything we can to move forward," Schwarzenegger said during a tour of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Last week, California sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to force the agency to decide whether California can enact the country's first emissions standards for cars and light trucks. The state first sought permission for such a regulation two years ago.
Schwarzenegger said Thursday that 40 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation fuels.
Automakers are fighting that lawsuit and others, arguing that it would be too complicated and expensive to meet a patchwork of state regulations and that the federal government must set emissions standards. Vehicles from the 2009 model year will start hitting U.S. roads next year.
Schwarzenegger said automakers should simply adopt California's standards and put them in place nationwide.
"The federal government is not showing any leadership," he said. "They're asleep at the wheel."