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Wyoming files suit against Biden administration's new fuel economy rules

A man stands before a podium as he gives a speech.
Governor Mark Gordon
Gov. Mark Gordon gives his inaugural speech after being sworn in for his second term. Jan. 2, 2023

Wyoming has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration's new fuel economy standards. The rules will require light-duty vehicles to average 50 miles per gallon by 2031.

The rules are meant to save on fuel costs while reducing pollution, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But Gov. Mark Gordon said the standards aren't workable in Wyoming, where long distance travel and extreme cold mean that electric vehicles may not be the best option.

"They have no reason to overreach into Wyoming's driving habits," Gordon said in an interview. "Most people here drive pickups. They might have loads of livestock that they have to haul and electric vehicles don't necessarily make sense for that."

Gordon said the new rule amounts to a federal mandate to force a consumer transition to electric vehicles. In a joint letter from January, governors from 16 states urged Pres. Joe Biden to reel in his ambitions regarding electric vehicles.

Due to the remote nature of the state's roads, Gordon said the new rules, which would also require charging stations every fifty miles, don't consider the reality of driving in Wyoming.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that he's working to find solutions for the unique circumstances of the Cowboy State.

"We're conscious that a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work," said Buttigieg in an exclusive interview with Wyoming Public Radio. "We're in good dialogue with the governor and with WYDOT [Wyoming Department of Transportation] about how to make sure that we apply that common sense here in this program."

Wyoming is currently engaged in 58 lawsuits against various federal agencies, according to the governor’s office. Gordon said that the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Chevron doctrine, which had given agencies leeway when ambiguous legal language left room for interpretation, may impact Wyoming's lawsuits.

"It may mean that regulators will have to take the process more seriously," Gordon said. "It may rein in some energy regulation and federal overreach."

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.

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