States sue Trump administration for reduced penalties on fuel efficiency

States sue Trump administration for reduced penalties on fuel efficiency
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Thirteen states filed suit against the Trump administration Friday, arguing it was breaking the law by cutting penalties for automakers that do not meet Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.

The suit, led by California's and New York’s attorneys general, goes after a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule that lowers penalties for manufacturers from $14 to $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon (mpg) they fall below fuel efficiency standards. 

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“This rule is just another misguided and reckless attempt by the Trump Administration to roll back the clock on our clean air standards,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Without strong penalties for violating these fuel efficiency standards consumers, our economy, and our environment all remain in danger. As we’ve done in the past, we will continue to fight this battle against the Trump Administration’s efforts to ignore the realities of climate change.”

The suit is the latest step in a long saga between California and the Trump administration over fuel efficiency standards.

The Trump administration proposed freezing the Obama-era fuel standards — something that has driven condemnation from both states and the auto industry.

The standards from the Obama administration would have required automakers to produce cars and light trucks that reach an average of 51 mpg by 2026. The deal was designed to create one national fuel economy standard after decades of allowing California and other states to adopt their own more aggressive standards. 

California has been on a mission to protect its right to more aggressive fuel standards ever since the Trump administration proposed weakening them. After stalled negotiations between the state and federal entities, California announced last week that they had sidelined the administration and entered into an agreement with four automakers to establish new fuel economy standards similar to what was agreed to under Obama.

This suit follows another from California dealing with penalties.

“We were victorious in our earlier court battle against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE in maintaining the [fuel efficiency] penalty level that accounts for inflation as required by law. Now the Trump Administration seeks to make these penalties meaningless,” California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCalifornia leads states in lawsuit over Trump public charge rule Overnight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs California counties file first lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule MORE said in a statement. “We’ll take on this latest wrong-headed maneuver with the same vigor that defeated the Administration’s first attempt at backsliding.” 

NHTSA did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington are also part of the suit.