California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and the attorneys general of 21 other states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stop the Trump administration from preempting California’s ability to set its own vehicle emission standards.
California’s greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emission vehicle standards were authorized in 2013 by a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency but the Trump administration on Thursday issued a rule setting nationwide uniform fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles and light-duty trucks and revoking California’s rule-making authority. California’s standards are followed to varying degrees by 13 other states and the District of Columbia. Officials there say the standards are a key part of state efforts to protect public health and the environment.
“Our office joined this lawsuit to support states’ authority to fight climate change and protect public health,” said Laura Brewer, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.
In addition to California and North Carolina, the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York have signed on as plaintiffs.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs seek to have the Trump administration’s rule vacated.
“Two courts have already upheld California’s emissions standards, rejecting the argument the Trump Administration resurrects to justify its misguided Preemption Rule. Yet, the Administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health,” said Becerra. “The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the Presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law. Mr. President, we’ll see you in court.”
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may apply for a waiver from EPA to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal standards. Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted 100 waivers to California. As a result, California says it has reduced emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies and paved the way for stronger federal standards.
The Trump administration called its action the “One National Program Rule,” saying the change will enable the federal government to provide nationwide uniform fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles and light duty trucks. Calling the action a top priority for President Trump, the administration said that when finalized, the proposed Safer, Affordable, Fuel-Efficient, or SAFE, Vehicles Rule standards would establish attainable fuel economy and greenhouse gas vehicle emissions standards that will help ensure that more Americans have access to safer, more affordable, and cleaner vehicles that meet their families’ needs.
The administration said the SAFE rule’s standards would save the nation billions of dollars, strengthen the U.S. domestic manufacturing base by adding millions of new car sales and save lives.
“Today’s action meets President Trump’s commitment to establish uniform fuel economy standards for vehicles across the United States, ensuring that no State has the authority to opt out of the Nation’s rules, and no State has the right to impose its policies on the rest of the country,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao in a statement issued Thursday.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the rule provides needed regulatory certainty for the automotive industry and promote economic growth by reducing the price of new vehicles to help more Americans purchase newer, cleaner and safer cars and trucks.
California said the rule is unlawful, disregards the National Environmental Policy Act and is arbitrary and capricious, among other complaints.
“California won’t bend to the President’s reckless and politically motivated attacks on our clean car waiver,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “We’ll hold the line in court to defend our children’s health, save consumers money at the pump and protect our environment.”