WASHINGTON (Oct. 22, 2007) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final rule on the treatment of confidential business information under the early warning rule of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act.
Essentially, the final rule is identical to a proposed rule NHTSA issued in October 2006, which in turn was nearly identical to the final rule the District of Columbia federal district court overturned in March 2006 on procedural grounds.
As before, the new standard allows confidential treatment of early warning data under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, which makes exemptions for information that might harm a company´s competitive position.
The final rule pleases neither the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which holds that all early warning information should be kept confidential, nor the consumer group Public Citizen, which argues that none should.
"NHTSA largely has issued the exact same rule, so we have the exact same problem that we had before," an RMA spokesman said.
Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said in a statement that "despite losing in the courts, the administration insists on trying again to produce a rule that will keep us in the dark about potential defects and other safety hazards in the cars we drive," said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, meanwhile, is considering the RMA´s appeal of a district court decision rejecting the association´s argument that Exemption 3 of the FOIA Act mandates that all early warning data be kept confidential.