WASHINGTON – In a much anticipated backlash to recent EPA rules reversals, 17 states, including California, are now suing the Trump administration over recent actions by the EPA to reverse Obama-Era rules that would have required automakers to produce car fleets that averaged over 50 miles per gallon by 2025. This action has set the stage for a major fight that could result in 2 distinct sets of emissions rules for auto makers
The lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and is led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The lawsuit alleges that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s actions earlier this month were “unlawful”. Other states involved in the lawsuit include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and District of Columbia.
Minnesota is also participating in the lawsuit through its Pollution Control Agency and Department of Transportation.
“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,” Becerra said in a statement. “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 EPA has remained silent on the lawsuit thus far.
On the surface, it appears that automakers could save billions with the rule changes. However, thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1970, states like California (and even municipalities) retain the right to enforce their own standards. Although the Trump Administration aims to take away California’s right to enforce its own standards, the economic impact of the state of California alone is enough to complicate things for manufacturers, as evidenced by this lawsuit.
Until the Trump Administration is able to push an amendment to the Clean Air Act through congress, automakers will need to adhere to 2 sets of standards. Either that, or continue to adhere to the higher standard for all vehicles sold across the country.
Democrats in congress remain vehemently against the EPA’s rule changes and consider the actions a way to placate automakers who have long complained about the escalating mileage rules.
Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said the lawsuit may have been a gambit by states that are angry with the Trump administration’s decision to reopen debate about the mileage rules to gain sway in upcoming negotiations.
“These 17 states represent a huge portion of the total U.S. car market, and they clearly feel they can influence any decision related to these CAFE requirements,” he said. “It could be another legal thorn in the Trump administration’s side, but ultimately I think the government has the legal ability to determine these standards, even at the state level.
“Most legal experts, without a political ax to grind, agree the shortened review period by the Obama administration violated the original spirit of the CAFE agreement,” Brauer continued. “There’s no clear winner in this legal debate – except, as always, the lawyers.”