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California and 17 states file suit against EPA over fuel efficiency plan rollback

In the wake of the EPA’s move last month to eliminate federal fuel efficiency standards for 2022-2025 model year cars, California has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to stop the move from happening.  The lawsuit was filed today with California Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the California Air Resources Board as plaintiffs, with 17 other states joining in.

In total, the states filing the lawsuit represent 140 million Americans and about 43% of the country’s car market.

The states represented in the lawsuit are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.  The District of Columbia has also joined the suit.

This lawsuit is not much of a surprise.  We have expected for some time that California and the “CARB states,” other states which follow rules set by the California Air Resources Board, would resist the scrapping of these fuel efficiency rules.  A couple weeks ago, Jerry Brown stated that California “will not back down” from the fight, and prior to that, even before the rule change was made official, it was clear that CARB would fight the EPA over this.

Electrek’s Take

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, the quixotic anti-environment crusader Scott Pruitt prided himself on having sued the EPA 14 times.  His public justification for these lawsuits was often the same: “state’s rights.”  Pruitt, who had received $270,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry in his career in state politics and continues to receive gifts from that industry today, thought that Oklahoma should be allowed to pollute within their own borders – nevermind that pollution rarely respects borders – because it has the right to set its own policy on the state level.

Or at least, that’s what he said at the time.  Now, as head of the agency which protects something he always wished to destroy, he seems to have abandoned this clearly-so-sincere belief of his that states should be allowed to control the pollution happening within their own borders.  He wants to stop California and other states from setting their own standards, and despite that this has been a key point of federal regulation since the 1963 Clean Air Act, Pruitt thinks he can go over the head of law which was passed by the legislature over 50 years ago and take away California’s ability to regulate efficiency.

Another of Pruitt’s justifications for this rule change, and for his attempt to remove California’s ability to set their own standards, is that he wants regulations to be “consistent.”  In this, like most of his claimed goals, he has failed.  In changing a rule which has existed since 2009, and in making a change which everyone knew would be opposed by California and other states, he has made rulemaking more inconsistent, and more unpredictable.

This makes automakers’ jobs harder, not easier, as they don’t know what they should be engineering their vehicles for – and vehicle engineering can take years to happen, so changing the rules just 3 years before vehicles are meant to hit the road makes for a difficult task.

Of course, automakers have themselves to blame for this, too, since virtually all of them have been lobbying the EPA for this change.  But now their job will continue to be uncertain while this lawsuit plays out.

Thankfully for all of us who have lungs and breathe air, California has fought this fight before and will fight this fight again. With almost half the country joining the fight, and 90% of Americans who want higher fuel efficiency for cars, California will lead the nation and fight against the current administration’s attempts to make Americans unhealthier.

Here’s the full press release:

California and States Representing Over 40 Percent of U.S. Car Market Sue to Defend National Clean Car Rules

Published: May 01, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Moving to curb toxic air pollution and improve car gas mileage, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Air Resources Board today announced California is leading an 18-state coalition to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to preserve the nation’s single vehicle emission standard.

“The states joining today’s lawsuit represent 140 million people who simply want cleaner and more efficient cars,” said Governor Brown. “This phalanx of states will defend the nation’s clean car standards to boost gas mileage and curb toxic air pollution.”

“The evidence is irrefutable: today’s clean car standards are achievable, science-based and a boon for hardworking American families. But the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt refuse to do their job and enforce these standards,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Enough is enough. We’re not looking to pick a fight with the Trump Administration, but when the stakes are this high for our families’ health and our economic prosperity, we have a responsibility to do what is necessary to defend them.”

“The standards we are fighting to protect were adopted in 2012 and don’t take effect until 2022. They were a lifeline thrown to an industry that was in trouble and desperate for stability. They were based on the best judgment of engineers about what technology could achieve. And in fact they are being achieved today, years ahead of the deadlines, because of the good work of the auto industry,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols. “But now Administrator Pruitt, based on no new information or facts, wants to roll back all that progress in the name of deregulation. The Final Determination is just the first step but it is intended to provide the legal basis for a decision that has already been made: to halt the progress that regulators and industry have made toward a new generation of vehicles. It does not withstand scrutiny and it will not stand.”

Today’s lawsuit, which was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeks to set aside and hold unlawful the U.S. EPA’s effort to weaken the existing clean car rules. The lawsuit is based on the fact that the U.S. EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own regulations and violated the Clean Air Act.

Beginning in 2010, the U.S. EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Air Resources Board established a single national program of greenhouse gas emissions standards for model year 2012-2025 vehicles. This program allows automakers to design and manufacture to a single target. The rules save drivers money at the pump, cut oil consumption, reduce air pollution and curb greenhouse gases.

Last year, the U.S. EPA affirmed these standards were appropriate based on an extensive record of data. The California Air Resources Board also affirmed the standards were appropriate and that the federal government should continue to support a single national program for all states.

On April 13, 2018, however, the U.S. EPA, without evidence to support the decision, arbitrarily reversed course and claimed that the clean car standards for model years 2022-2025 should be scrapped. The federal government offered no evidence to support this decision and the forthcoming rulemaking intended to weaken the existing 2022-2025 standards.

The federal standard the states are suing to protect is estimated to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year, and save drivers $1,650 per vehicle. The car industry is on track to meet or exceed these standards.

The 18 jurisdictions joining today’s legal action represent approximately 43 percent of the U.S. automobile market and approximately 140 million people: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Last year, Governor Brown wrote a letter to the U.S. EPA Administrator to defend the existing emission standard.

A copy of the petition for review is attached to the electronic version of this release at

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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