CA & Coalition Sues EPA & Voice Opposition to Rollback Fleet Fines

The attorney general of California is leading two iniatives to improve air quality a lawsuit against the EPA and its opposition of Trump Administration’s rolling back of fleet penalties.

Lawsuit Against EPA

Moving to curb toxic air pollution and improve car gas mileage, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and the California Air Resources Board announced that they are leading a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to preserve the nation’s single vehicle emission standard.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeks to set aside and hold unlawful the EPA’s effort to weaken the nation’s existing clean car rules. The lawsuit is based on the fact that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own regulations, and violated the Clean Air Act.

Beginning in 2010, the EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board established a single national program of greenhouse gas emissions standards for model year 2012-2025 vehicles. This program allows auto makers to design and manufacture to a single target. The rules save drivers money at the pump, reduce oil consumption, reduce air pollution and curb greenhouse gases.

Last year, the EPA affirmed that these standards were appropriate based on an extensive record of data. The California Air Resources Board also affirmed the standards and that the federal government should continue to support a single national program for all states.

On April 13, 2018, however, the EPA, without evidence to support its decision, arbitrarily reversed course and claimed that the clean car standards for model years 2022-2025 should be scrapped. The Administration offered no evidence to support this decision or its forthcoming rulemaking designed to weaken the existing 2022-2025 standards.

The federal standard the states are suing to protect is estimated to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year and to save drivers $1,650 per vehicle. The car industry is on track to meet or exceed these standards.

Joining Attorney General Becerra, Governor Brown, and the California Air Resources Board in filing today’s lawsuit were the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania (also filed by and through its Department of Environmental Protection), Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Minnesota filed by and through its Pollution Control Agency and Department of Transportation. This coalition represents approximately 43% of the new car sales market nationally and 44% of the U.S. population

Attorneys General Oppose Repeal of Fleet Fuel Efficency

A coalition of 13 Attorneys General, lead by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman registered their strong opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposal to repeal a rule that calls on automakers to produce vehicle fleets that meet or exceed federal fuel efficiency standards.

The rule at issue adjusted for inflation the penalty imposed on automakers whose vehicle fleets do not meet minimum fuel efficiency standards. All federal agencies were required to increase their civil penalty rates after Congress passed the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. In response, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a new rule to increase its penalty by $8.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon. The Trump Administration is now seeking to roll back this updated penalty. If the penalty is not sufficiently high, automakers lack a vital incentive to manufacture fuel-efficient vehicles.

“President Trump claims to support law and order, yet his Administration routinely ignores laws when it doesn’t like them,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Our coalition will not stand by idly. We will continue doing what is necessary to hold the Trump Administration accountable, especially for clear violations of the law that harm our families. More fuel-efficient cars on our roads means cleaner air, better overall health for our children, and savings at the pump for consumers.”

“Fuel economy standards are common sense: cutting pollution, fighting climate change, promoting energy independence, and saving drivers money at the pump,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Rolling back the penalty would gut these critical standards by removing much of automakers’ incentive to comply – yet another Trump administration giveaway to special interests at the expense of New Yorkers’ health and wallets. Our coalition of Attorneys General hasn’t hesitated to take the Trump administration to court, and we’ll continue to do what it takes to protect those we serve.”

The proposal to repeal follows a previous attempt by the Trump Administration to delay the updated penalty. Specifically, on July 12, 2017, NHTSA published a notice in the Federal Register to announce an indefinite delay of the penalty. However, following a lawsuit led by Attorneys General Becerra and Schneiderman, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against the Administration on April 24, 2018.

Joining Attorneys General Becerra and Schneiderman in submitting their comments were the Attorneys General of Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Since taking office, Attorney General Becerra has made protecting the environment a top priority. Among his many efforts, he has joined, through an amicus brief, the City of Oakland’s efforts to prohibit for health and safety reasons the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke at one of its port terminals; filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to repeal regulations governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of oil and gas wells drilled on federal and Native American tribal lands; challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to suspend the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which would protect California’s lakes, rivers, and streams from pollutants; and called on the Administration to immediately withdraw its proposal to open California’s coast to new offshore drilling.