A group of 23 states on Friday sued to block the administration of President Donald Trump from undoing California’s authority to set strict car pollution rules. This is currently one of the biggest battles over climate change playing out in the United States.
On the day that young people around the world staged protests demanding action on climate change, the lawsuit in a US District Court in Washington, DC was the first round in a legal battle that many expect will outlast Trump’s presidency.
“Mr. President, we’ll see you in court,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
The legal fight pits a state that has become the environmental champion of the US against a president who wants to boost the country’s economy by cutting regulation – a debate that already is playing out ahead of the presidential election next year.
“Trump’s latest move is bad for our air. Bad for our health. Bad for our economy,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom.
California’s vehicle emissions rules, which are more stringent than the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, are followed by a dozen other states that account for more than 40 percent of US vehicle sales.
Trump has said looser tailpipe emissions rules would make vehicles cheaper. Environmentalists argue that Trump’s rules will accelerate climate change, and that emissions rules improve fuel economy, in turn lowering consumer costs.
The states, led by California and joined by the cities of Los Angeles, New York and the District of Columbia, sued the US Department of Transportation in US District Court seeking a court order blocking the federal move.
The states suing include New York, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Washington State and Massachusetts.
The US Department of Transportation declined to comment. It said on Thursday in its determination that federal law preempts state and local regulation of vehicle fuel economy – including California’s greenhouse gas vehicle emissions rules that are followed by about a dozen other states.
The legal challenge does not address a parallel decision by the EPA to revoke a 2013 waiver California received under the Clean Air Act to set emissions standards. That does not take effect until late November.
The Trump administration is seeking to reverse decades of precedent that has allowed California to take a national role in deciding how to regulate vehicle emissions.
Becerra said the transportation department’s determination was unlawful and that the administration misread federal law and ignored the intent of the US Congress.
“The administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health,” Becerra said.
The Trump administration has been waging a multi-pronged battle to counter the state’s efforts to fight climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles.
On September 6, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Department of Justice launched an antitrust probe of Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, and Honda Motor Co – automobile companies that struck a voluntary agreement with California to reduce vehicle emissions.
The rules, which date from the era of former US President Barack Obama, called for a fleet-wide fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon by 2025, with average annual increases of about five percent, compared with 37 miles per gallon by 2026 under the Trump administration’s preferred option to freeze requirements.
US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said Thursday that the administration will finalise revisions in the coming weeks. “No state has the authority to opt out of the nation’s rules,” she said, “and no state has the right to impose its policies on everybody else in our whole country.”