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Libertarian group sues Trump for not rolling back emissions standards even more

The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) believes that Donald Trump didn’t go far enough to slash clean car standards. So it filed the first of many lawsuits to challenge the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency rules.

CEI filed its complaint in a Washington federal court on Friday. Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel, told Bloomberg:

The agency was right to roll back the scheduled increases in fuel economy standards, which would have made cars less crashworthy and increased highway fatalities. But NHTSA should have reduced those standards even more, and perhaps frozen them entirely.

The Trump administration follows the tortured logic that reducing the price of cars will increase sales, thereby replacing older models with safer, newer ones. Trump tweeted the false assertion that reduced efficiency would lower the price of vehicles by $3,500.

Trump disregarded the health impacts from the rollback, which translates to a 70% annual hike in polluting vehicle emissions. Under Obama-era rules, automakers were required to achieve a fleet average of 39 miles per gallon through 2026. Instead, under the “Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient” rule unveiled on March 31, the target will be 33.2 mpg.

Previously, the administration rescinded EPA-issued waivers authorizing California to set more stringent GHG standards and to enforce its Zero-Emission Vehicles mandate. California says its state regulations on vehicle emissions have cut the amount of many pollution levels 75% to 99% in the past 50 years, avoiding 29,000 premature deaths each year.

CEI also cited “the impact on their future car-buying choices,” as its reason for filing the complaint.

Lawsuits ahead

BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and more recently Volvo made a deal with California to meet rules that are a compromise between Barack Obama’s standards and Trump’s plans. GM, Toyota, and Fiat-Chrysler sided with Trump. The lawsuits are only beginning, virtually ensuring that California rules will stay in place and become the de facto standard.

California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra and environmentalists say they plan to sue. And the Natural Resources Defense Council reiterated yesterday that it will soon go to court to reverse the Trump rollback. In a blog post, the group said:

The Trump rollback will cause nearly a billion tons more CO2 pollution over the life of the cars and trucks built over the next six years. We believe the rollback fails to meet legal requirements for setting maximum feasible standards and protecting public health and welfare.

If anything, the clean car rules should be strengthened, not weakened.

The Trump administration seems not to care that we are headed toward climate catastrophe with carbon dioxide pollution driving global average temperatures up some 6 degrees Fahrenheit and rendering places that hundreds of millions of people call home virtually unlivable. This monumental disregard for human health and well-being underpins the administration’s senseless rollback of clean car and fuel economy standards, being published today in the Federal Register.

NRDC calls for increased clean-car incentives, investment in EV manufacturing in the US, and more electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The group believes these steps can “jump-start our economy, increase family-supporting auto- and truck-industry jobs, and help provide equal access to clean air.”

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.