Court won’t dismiss challenge to part of Trump’s car efficiency rollback

A federal court won’t dismiss a challenge by Democratic states and green groups to a key part of the Trump administration’s plan to roll back car fuel efficiency and emissions standards.

At issue is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) April determination that the Obama administration’s plan to make the car standards stricter between 2021 and 2026 was unattainable and should be revised.

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The green groups and Democratic states, led by California, asked the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shortly after the determination to overturn it, arguing that it was flawed and incorrect.

The EPA asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit and said that the determination is not a regulation that can be reviewed by a court.

In a short order Wednesday, the three-judge panel said it would move ahead in hearing the merits of the lawsuit, a rebuke to the administration’s attempt to end the case before it is fully heard.

The Environmental Defense Fund, one of the leading green groups in the lawsuit, celebrated the Wednesday order as a victory.

“We're thankful that the D.C. Circuit has rejected the Trump EPA’s attempt to evade review of its fact-free justification for attacking the Clean Car Standards,” Martha Roberts, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

“The Clean Car Standards are one of our nation’s biggest environmental success stories, and the Trump EPA’s justification for undermining them — the Final Determination — lacks any basis in sound economic, science or health data. The Trump EPA’s deeply flawed reasoning for the proposed rollback deserves thorough court review.”

The court didn’t fully deny the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss the case. Instead, the judges will consider it as part of the overall case.

But the administration wanted the court to drop the case outright instead of considering the merits.

The April determination at issue was a necessary precursor to the August proposal to freeze the emissions and efficiency rules in 2021, but the lawsuit only challenges the April action. The freeze itself has not yet been made final, so opponents cannot yet sue.

The D.C. court did not set a schedule for hearing the case Wednesday, instead asking the litigants to propose one.