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NRDC, Public Citizen, Center for Auto Safety v. Mineta

This lawsuit, brought by Public Citizen, NRDC, and Center for Auto Safety, challenged a final rule issued in early 2004 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), extending the “dual-fuel” vehicle fuel economy credit program for another four years until 2008—despite overwhelming evidence on the record that an extension will lead to substantial increases in fuel consumption and emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The “dual-fuel” credit provision gives automakers inflated fuel economy credits for selling vehicles that can run on either an alternative fuel, such as ethanol, or on conventional gasoline. Given the inaccessibility and higher price of the ethanol blend that can be used by these dual-fueled vehicles, the vehicles almost never run on anything other than gas. The program has created a significant loophole in federal fuel economy standards by allowing auto manufacturers to receive credit for producing millions of these dual-fuel vehicles and thereby offset shortfalls in the fuel economy ratings of their car and light-truck fleets. As the plaintiffs contended in the lawsuit, NHTSA’s decision to extend this ineffective and counter-productive program for four more years was both contrary to the statute authorizing the program and arbitrary and capricious. While the suit was pending, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the dual-fuel program, thus mooting the suit.