California Sues Over Plan to Scrap Car Emission Standards

3 min
California has a unique waiver that allows it to set its own tailpipe emissions standards for vehicles, which it has used to combat smog and more recently global warming.  (iStock)

California and 16 other states have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its plans to scrap gas mileage standards and how much greenhouse gases vehicles can emit, Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday.

"This is a science-based attack that we make on these characters in Washington," said Brown during a news conference on Tuesday. "That in the name of making America great, are making us weak and making the world more dangerous and unsafe, because climate  change is not a joke."

The suit takes aim at a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate standards for vehicles manufactured between 2022 and 2025. The standards would have required vehicles to get 36 miles per gallon by 2025, about 10 miles over the existing standard.

Pruitt says the standards are not appropriate and need revision. They were set in 2012 when California and the Obama administration agreed to single nationwide fuel economy standard.

California officials say the standards are achievable and the EPA's effort to roll them back is not based on any new research. They argue the plan violates the Clean Air Act and didn't follow the agency's own regulations.

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At Tuesday's news conference, Brown blasted Pruitt as an "outlaw."

"This is about health, it’s about life and death, and this character in Washington with his expensive travel tastes and his funny little redecorating plans that cost the American people all sorts of money, is riding roughshod over the laws of this country and the health of our people," said Brown.

California has a unique waiver that allows it to set its own tailpipe emissions standards for vehicles, which it has used to combat smog and more recently global warming. Twelve other states have adopted the California standards as their own.

Automakers have argued that the current requirements would have cost the industry billions of dollars and raised vehicle prices due to the cost of developing the necessary technology.

But environmental advocates say the move is crucial to protecting the current standards.

“Scott Pruitt is recklessly disregarding the vast technical and economic bases for America’s Clean Car Standards," says Vickie Patton, an attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, “and instead launching an all-out attack that risks Americans’ health and their pocketbooks. We fully support the states’ legal challenge to Pruitt’s unsupported and unacceptable action.”

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The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining California are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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