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Old 06-05-2003, 07:34   #1 (permalink)
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CAFE rule taken to court; groups claim free enterprise interference

June 05, 2003

By HARRY STOFFER | Automotive News

WASHINGTON -- Two conservative organizations have filed suit to stop higher fuel economy standards adopted by the Bush administration for light trucks.

The Washington-based groups, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Consumer Alert, oppose regulations that they say interfere with free enterprise and individual rights.

In the case of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, they argue that higher standards will force manufacturers to build smaller vehicles that are more dangerous.

The lawsuit was filed May 29 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration introduced tougher fuel economy standards that would take effect in the 2005-07 model years. Since 1996, the fuel economy standard for light trucks has been 20.7 miles per gallon. The target will rise to 22.2 miles per gallon by 2007.

At the time, agency administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge said automakers could meet the new standard without increasing safety risks. Runge sticks by his statement, an agency spokesman said last week.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has links to the auto industry. Approximately $100,000 of the institute's $3.2 million annual budget came from automakers. This year the institute received a $75,000 grant from Ford Motor Co., $25,000 from General Motors and $5,000 from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But Sam Kazman, the institute's general counsel, says his organization makes its own decisions.

The auto industry appears reluctant to support the institute's stance on fuel economy. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers will not join the lawsuit, said organization Vice President Gloria Bergquist.

The reason: The alliance had feared Congress might adopt tougher fuel economy rules. To head off environmentalists, the auto industry lobbied the Bush administration to issue new regulations instead.
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