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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

A federal appeals court in San Francisco threw out the Bush administration's fuel-economy standards for SUVs and light trucks. It's the third federal court in less than a year to insist the standards aren't tough enough.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: A group of states along with environmental groups sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year after it boosted fuel efficiency requirements from 22.2 miles per gallon in 2007 to 23.5 in 2010. The plaintiffs called the increase insufficient and said the government failed to consider the economic value of reducing tailpipe emissions that contribute to climate change. The Ninth Circuit Court agreed. The court also asked the government to explain why SUVs and minivans were allowed to be less fuel efficient than cars. Environmentalists and the states, including California, hailed the ruling.

Aaron Colangelo of the Natural Resources Defense Council notes that the court told the administration to adopt new standards as soon as possible.

Mr. AARON COLANGELO (Natural Resources Defense Council Lawyer): And the court used pretty stern language. The court actually said the government must act to consider the impacts of global warming as expeditiously as possible, and that's unusual. The court here, in essence, not only ordered the government to act, but to act fast.

KAUFMAN: The Alliance of Automobile manufacturers noted that the rule in question represented the largest fuel economy increase in the history of federal mileage standards, and that new vehicles are already being developed based on those standards. The Bush administration has not yet indicated if it will appeal.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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