Energy & Environment

California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule

A coalition of state attorneys general is suing the Trump administration after it moved earlier in the week to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards, first granted under former President Obama.

The lawsuit, filed by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) along with the leaders of 23 other states; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles and New York City, argues that the Trump administration unlawfully removed the state’s waiver granted under the Clean Air Act.

{mosads}The suit also alleges that the decision to remove California’s waiver to set its own standards, which are currently adopted by 12 other states, exceeds the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) authority. NHTSA, under the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly drafted the new emissions rule.

Trump first tweeted the decision to remove the Golden State’s waiver on Wednesday when he was visiting the state. DOT and EPA formally announced the decision on Thursday.

“State Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Preemption Regulation be declared unlawful and set aside because it exceeds NHTSA’s authority, contravenes Congressional intent, and is arbitrary and capricious, and because NHTSA has failed to conduct the analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act,” the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reads.

Becerra said in a press release Friday that the Trump administration “insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health.”

“The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the Presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law. Mr. President, we’ll see you in court,” he added.

California was first granted the right to submit environmental waivers for review in 1968 under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the state has been issued waivers to allowing it to set air pollution standards higher than that of the federal government, due to the state’s unique struggle with air pollution and smog. 

The federal government has never before revoked one of its waivers.

In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called the Trump administration’s rollback of state authority a “politically motivated” attack.

“California won’t bend to the President’s reckless and politically motivated attacks on our clean car waiver,” he said. “We’ll hold the line in court to defend our children’s health, save consumers money at the pump and protect our environment.”

All of the states on the lawsuit currently have Democratic attorneys general, but several were won by President Trump in 2016, including North Carolina and Michigan.

California adopted a new set of emissions standards in 2012 that state officials say would cut down on 25.2 million metric tons of pollution per year by 2030. 

The Trump administration submitted its final rule to replace the Obama-era emissions regulation in August. 

Critics of California’s plans argue that they effectively create two auto markets in the country, one that complies with the more stringent California standards and one that does not. 

The move is likely to impact the auto industry, which has long favored a unified emissions rule. Four automakers in July announced they had partnered with California to manufacture cars that would satisfy the state’s more stringent emissions standards.

In September, it came out that the Department of Justice is investigating the automakers and the state for an antitrust violation. The investigation, still in its early stages, reportedly centers around whether the companies’ agreement with California unfairly stifles auto sale competition in the state.

Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, which is represented in the lawsuit, said that the state expects to see a victory in the courts, pointing to previous decisions over similar matters.

“I started my career litigating to clean up the air in California with one of the first Clean Air Act cases ever filed,” Nichols said. “I won then and we will win now. We are ready to keep fighting to protect our people and our planet.”

—Updated at 1:39 p.m.

Tags California Climate change Donald Trump Gavin Newsom Lawsuit vehicle emissions vehicle emissions standard Xavier Becerra

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