February 16, 2021
Contact: Stephen Read

AGs Urge Court to Nix Latest Delay of Full Penalties for Automakers that Fail to Meet Fuel Efficiency Standards

State attorneys general successfully challenged two prior attempts to insulate non-compliant automakers from inflation.

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 15 state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James today petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to once again scrap an attempt by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to delay statutorily mandated inflation adjustments of penalties for automakers whose vehicle fleets fail to meet federal fuel efficiency standards. Acting at the behest of the auto industry, the Trump administration in its waning hours issued an interim final rule that delays the adjustment by three years, from model year 2019 to model year 2022.
“NHTSA should not let automakers who fail to comply with Congress’s mandate to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles off the hook. No detour — no matter how roundabout — can bypass Congress' directive,” said Bethany Davis Noll, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. “State attorneys general will continue to advocate for standards and penalties that encourage automakers to innovate in pursuit of fuel efficiency — an outcome that is a win-win-win for drivers, public health and the climate.”
Legislation, Rollbacks and Litigation — In 2015, Congress passed bipartisan legislation requiring agencies across the federal government to update their schedule of fines to better account for decades of inflation. In 2016, NHTSA issued an interim final rule that adjusted penalties for automakers whose vehicles failed to comply with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, beginning with model year 2019 vehicles. In September 2017, five state attorneys general sued the Trump administration for indefinitely delaying the new penalties. The Second Circuit vacated the Trump administration’s delay and reinstated NHTSA’s original rule.
In August 2019, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 13 states in challenging an attempt by NHTSA to cut its fines to nearly a third of what was required by Congress. The Second Circuit sided with the attorneys general and vacated the rule, once again reinstating NHTSA’s original rule.
Last month, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council also sued NHTSA for delaying the penalties.
The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington joined AG James in filing today's petition.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. For more information, visit our website