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15 states sue over Trump plan to limit automaker fines on emissions standards

15 states sue over Trump plan to limit automaker fines on emissions standards
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A group of 15 attorneys general is petitioning the courts to block the Biden administration from fulfilling automakers' last minute request to the Trump administration to limit penalties for those who do not meet emissions standards.

A Jan. 14 rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved automakers’ request to delay taking into account inflation when fining car manufacturers for failing to comply with federal emissions regulations.

“NHTSA should not let automakers who fail to comply with Congress’s mandate to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles off the hook. No detour — no matter how roundabout — can bypass Congress' directive,” said Bethany Davis Noll, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center, which highlighted the petition, adding that the standards are “a win-win-win for drivers, public health and the climate.”

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A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told The Hill in an email, "We do not comment on pending litigation but we are reviewing this and other recent rules for consistency with the environmental, equity and other policy directions of this new administration."

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a similar suit last month.

The case presents a chance for the Biden administration to signal its willingness to reverse course on Trump’s auto policy.

During the Trump administration NHTSA made multiple attempts to reduce penalties for automakers, finalizing a rule that lowered penalties for manufacturers from $14 to $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon (mpg) they fall below fuel efficiency standards. A similar coalition of attorneys general also challenged that move, which the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals struck down in August.

It also severely rolled back the mileage and emissions standards automakers must meet from 55 miles mpg by 2025 to 40 mpg by 2026.

Updated at 7:55 p.m.