States Will Go To Court To Stop EPA Rollback Of Fuel-Efficiency Standards

Image courtesy of Kevin Gagel

President Trump has made it known that his administration intends to oblige the auto industry’s request to roll-back longterm standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency in most new vehicles. However, some states say they will go to court to fight carmakers’ attempts to undo these guidelines.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced this afternoon that he plans to file a motion to intervene with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to defend a Jan. 2017 determination by the Environmental Protection Agency that effectively locked in mileage and emissions standards through the 2025 model year. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has already filed his motion to intervene.

New York is joined by a handful of other states — including Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — in opposing the Trump administration’s rollback of these standards.

“President Trump’s action represents a dramatic wrong turn in our nation’s efforts to fight air pollution from passenger cars and trucks, and protect the health of our children, seniors, and all communities,” reads a statement from the coalition. “Weakening these commonsense standards would undermine successful efforts to combat the pollution emitted by vehicles – emissions that cause widespread, substantial harm to public health and are one of the largest sources of climate change pollution.”

At the center of this issue are far-sighted emissions and efficiency standards established in 2012 by the EPA, which provided guidelines for the auto industry to meet through 2025. To guarantee that the 2012 guidelines weren’t overzealous or underachieving, the EPA agreed that it would perform a midterm review before locking in the requirements for the final years of the plan.

The EPA began that process last summer, resulting in a final determination in mid-January — about a week before President Trump was sworn in. That final determination [PDF] concluded that the original standards were still valid, effectively locking them in place through 2025.

However, the auto industry contends that the EPA rushed to reach that conclusion, and that agency began the process a year earlier than was expected. In February, after the Senate confirmed Trump’s EPA chief Scott Pruitt, auto industry lobbyists made their official requests for the agency to not enforce the Jan. 2017 final determination. They argued that the determination had not yet been made official, as it has not been published in the Federal Register — an opinion the White House now shares.

The coalition of states in opposition to today’s announcement argue that the EPA determination was not rushed, but was the result of an “extensive technical study.”

On Monday, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers filed a petition for review [PDF] with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking judicial review of the EPA’s determination, even though it maintains that the agency’s conclusions are not yet official.

Given the White House’s now-public position on these standards, it is not expected to put up any defense to the lobbyists’ petition. Which is why Schneiderman and Becerra — and possibly others — are seeking to act in defense of the standards.

“We will vigorously oppose attempts by the Trump Administration to weaken our vehicle emission policies and put our public health at risk,” said the coalition in a statement, “and we won’t hesitate to stand up for the right of our states to adopt stricter pollution standards that provide critical protections to the health of our residents and our environmental resources.”