News Center

Elsewhere Online twitter Facebook SLS Blogs YouTube SLS Channel Linked In SLSNavigator SLS on Flickr

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to Decide Major Global Warming Lawsuit

Publication Date: 
May 14, 2007
Stanford Law School

Stanford, Calif., May 14, 2007—The Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School has announced that 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 violated the law by ignoring global warming when it set national gas mileage standards for SUVs and pick-up 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 single 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 one 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, and 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. 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 A. “Debbie” 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 we’re hopeful that the Court will agree with us.”

Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) 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 (CAFE) standards for SUVs and light trucks at the “maximum feasible” level. At this morning’s hearing, Plaintiffs argued that the administration violated EPCA law 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. Plaintiffs also argued that the administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 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 Deborah A. "Debbie" Sivas, Director, Environmental Law Clinic and Lecturer in Law

Sivas has been the Director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic since 1997. She is a 1987 Stanford Law School graduate, clerked for a federal court, serves as president of the board for two NGOs, and has litigated many significant environmental cases on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

About the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford

Stanford Law School offers a variety of clinics that litigate in specialized fields, including environmental protection, immigrants’ rights, community law, cyberlaw, and educational advocacy. The clinics provide pro bono representation and operate cohesively as a single law firm, the Stanford Legal Clinic (SLC). The SLC provides students an opportunity to apply classroom theory to real client situations and to develop a lifelong commitment to public service values.

The Environmental Law Clinic, 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. Working under Clinic attorneys, students routinely investigate cases, assist clients in developing legal strategies, draft comment letters, court pleadings, and briefs, present testimony before administrative agencies, and argue cases in state and federal courts. Clinic students also provide policy advice and work on regulatory and legislative reform in the environmental field.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation's leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching.


Amy Poftak
Assistant Director of Communications
Stanford Law School
650 725.7516


Deborah A. "Debbie" Sivas
Director, Environmental Law Clinic and Lecturer in Law
650 723.0325

Brendan Cummings
Center for Biological Diversity
951.768-8301 (cell)