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For Immediate Release, May 14, 2007

Contact: Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (951) 768-8301 (cell)
Deborah Sivas, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, (650) 723-0325 (office), (650) 269-2489 (cell)
Amy Poftak, Stanford Law School, (650) 725-7516 (office)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Decide Major Global Warming Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO— Following this morning’s hearing in San Francisco, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the Bush administration government violated the law by ignoring global warming when it set national gas-mileage standards for SUVs and pickup trucks.

“The lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of the regulated vehicles will be nearly six times the entire annual emissions of the State of California,” said Kassie Siegel, climate program director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Raising fuel-economy standards is one of the most important actions the government can take to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. This case is an attempt to hold the Bush administration accountable for its predictable refusal to do so.”

The case, Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Traffic Administration, No. 06-71891, was considered this morning by Senior Circuit Judge Betty Binns Fletcher, Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, and Sixth Circuit Senior Judge Eugene E. Siler, in arguments that lasted about an hour. The case, filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, is consolidated with similar challenges by California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia, the City of New York, and four other public interest groups, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, and Environmental Defense.

The argument focused on the government’s failure to consider greenhouse gas emissions in the fuel-economy rulemaking, and in particular its use of “$0” as the marginal cost of greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-benefit analysis (meaning its economic calculations are significantly flawed). The court also asked about additional alternatives that should have been considered under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“We thought the court’s questions showed a real understanding of the issues,” said Deborah Sivas, director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford and the attorney of record on the case. “We believe that we’re correct on the law and hopeful that the court will agree with us.”

Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act in the wake of the 1973-1974 oil embargo as a technology-forcing statute to conserve energy and oil. The law requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set corporate average fuel-economy (“CAFÉ”) standards for SUVs and light trucks at the “maximum feasible” level . At this morning’s hearing, the plaintiffs argued that the administration violated the Act by setting low fuel-economy standards of 22.5, 23.1, and 23.5 miles per gallon for upcoming model years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. The plaintiffs also argued that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider greenhouse gas emissions and global warming before selecting the low mileage standards.

About the Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

About the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School

The Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford, directed by Deborah A. Sivas, enables students to provide legal assistance to nonprofit organizations on a variety of environmental issues, focusing primarily on natural resource conservation. The clinic's clients include large national environmental organizations and a variety of regional and local grassroots groups.


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