US states sue Donald Trump over weakened car-mileage standards
California and other states sued to stop the Trump administration from easing requirements on vehicle miles per gallon starting in 2021.
It’s the latest salvo by Democrat-led states to undue the federal government’s deregulatory efforts by using the courts. A final ruling in the dispute will impact the fate of the auto industry under stress from the US economic shutdown, the fuel costs borne by Americans and pollution levels in the country.
The administration’s new rule, unveiled March 31, would require cars, trucks and SUVs to average roughly 40 miles per gallon from 2021 through 2026 as opposed to closer to 47 mpg under a standard proposed by former President Barack Obama.
The lawsuit, which California officials said was filed Wednesday in Washington federal court, ramps up a legal war against President Donald Trump to preserve clean-car standards. It also sets the stage for a prolonged battle as America tackles a public health crisis amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The suit is the second to target Trump’s rewrite of a rule aimed at slashing carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. Earlier this month, a libertarian group filed its own challenge, calling the revised national standards still too strict. Environmental advocacy groups are also expected to sue, taking the same position as the states.
The administration’s effort violates the Clean Air Act, the states claim in the lawsuit. A final ruling in the dispute will impact the fate of the auto industry under stress from the US economic shutdown, the fuel costs borne by Americans and pollution levels in the country.
California and almost two dozen other states sued the Trump administration last year over its decision to strip California’s authority to make its own rules on tailpipe emissions.
Under the new rule, automakers will boost the fuel efficiency of new vehicles each year by a 1.5% fleet average starting in 2021. That’s a rollback of requirements for roughly 5% annual gains under rules charted during the Obama administration.
Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and BMW AG have already made a deal with California to meet rules that would be a compromise between Obama’s standards and Trump’s plans. Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, followed up news of the revised federal rules by joining the group of carmakers volunteering to meet California’s tougher standards.
Trump says his plan will make cars cheaper and slammed the car companies for agreeing to a higher standard.
California says the 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. But rising temperatures in the future as a result of climate change will exacerbate the ozone problems, according to the state.
“There is a clear relationship between increasing temperature and increasing ozone concentrations," the state says on its website.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called the change “reckless."
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are joining California in the lawsuit. The California Air Resources Board, the cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Denver also joined the coalition filing the suit, according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office.
California has set a higher bar for vehicle emissions than the Environmental Protection Agency since 1967 under the Clean Air Act. The new rules threaten California’s leadership role on climate change. The state has filed more than three dozen environment-related lawsuits against the Trump administration.