RICHMOND (October 26, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herringtoday joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general and four major cities, to file written comments demanding the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) withdraw their proposal to eliminate the national Clean Car Standards. The current Clean Car Standards require significant and feasible reductions in fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. These standards save consumers money, reduce emissions, and help prevent the effects of climate change. The current rule is expected to prevent up to 2,000 premature deaths, 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments, and reduce asthma symptoms for the 24 million Americans, including 6.3 million children. The rule would save the average consumer $1,620 over the lifetime of a car or truck.
The Trump Administration’s proposal would throw out these standards, which are supported by scientific research and have been repeatedly proven achievable, in favor of a plan that requires no improvements in vehicle fuel economy or GHG emissions for a period of at least six years.
“The Trump Administration’s plan to roll back the Clean Car Standards would put the health of our children, seniors and communities at risk, as well as increase the rising costs of climate change for the states,” said Attorney General Herring. “Here in Virginia, we are already seeing how devastating the effects of climate change can be, particularly in Hampton Roads where the world’s largest naval base is threatened by sea level rise and communities deal with nuisance flooding regularly. We need to focus on implementing more policy that will combat the effects of climate change to ensure that we leave our planet a better, healthier place for future generations.”
The Trump Administration’s proposal poses significant harm to consumers, public health, the economy, and the environment. It would degrade air quality and put millions of additional tons of climate-disrupting pollution into the atmosphere, while costing consumers billions of dollars in additional gasoline to operate less efficient vehicles. The EPA and NHTSA’s plan also blatantly disregards pleas from the scientific community, businesses, and world leaders’ to regulate GHG emissions. Experts have warned that rolling back protections such as the Clean Car Standards would aggressively accelerate global warming with wide-ranging consequences including temperature increases, ocean warming, sea level rise, increased hospitalizations and mortality, stress and die-off of animal and plant species, extreme weather events, famine, drought, and forced human migration.
In the letter, attorneys general from 20 states, Washington, D.C. and Mayors of the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, call on the EPA and NHTSA to immediately withdraw the proposal. The coalition identifies important reasons why the proposal is unlawful and should be immediately withdrawn:
- The proposed standards would require little or no progress on GHG emission standards or fuel economy for a period of six years, replacing technically feasible standards requiring significant reductions in emissions and fuel consumption.
- The proposed rollback veers abruptly onto the road of catastrophic climate change and ignores overwhelming scientific consensus that immediate and continual progress toward a near-zero emission economy by mid-century is necessary to avoid irreversible and catastrophic climate change impacts;
- The agencies’ rollback process violates numerous important procedural requirements, and is based on an illegitimate mid-term evaluation based on unsound evidence and data;
- EPA’s proposal violates the Clean Air Act by increasing GHG emissions the agency is tasked to reduce;
- The proposed rollback is contrary to the Energy Policy Conservation Act and violates NHTSA’s duty to promote energy efficiency and conservation; and
- The agencies’ proposed rollback relies on flawed technical analysis.
Background on Clean Car Standards:
In 2010, the EPA, NHTSA, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and car manufacturers established a unified national program harmonizing GHG emission standards and fuel efficiency standards. Two years later, the agencies extended the national program to model years 2017-2025 vehicles. As part of the program, California and the federal agencies agreed to undertake a midterm evaluation to determine if the greenhouse gas emission standards for model years 2022-2025 vehicles should be maintained or revised.
In January 2017, the EPA completed the midterm evaluation by issuing a final determination, affirming that the existing standards were appropriate and would not be changed. The EPA arrived at this conclusion based on an extensive record it developed in conjunction with NHTSA and CARB.
On April 13, 2018, however, the Trump Administration took the first step toward dismantling the national program when it issued a revised final determination that alleged the federal greenhouse gas standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles were no longer appropriate. The Administration failed to provide any appropriate or relevant evidence for its arbitrary and capricious revision of its previous midterm evaluation. Attorney General Herring and a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the EPA May 1, 2018, over the Trump Administration’s April 13 action.
On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration made its rollback proposal official. In place of commonsense standards to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce GHG emissions, as federal law requires, the Administration moved to freeze the standards at the 2020 level through model year 2026. The Administration’s proposal would likely also block many other states that use California standards from moving forward. Attorney General Herring voiced his opposition to the Trump Administration’s decision, along with five other attorneys general.
Among the harms that Virginia faces from increasing climate change are:
- The Hampton Roads area has experienced the highest rates of sea level rise along the East Coast.
- Ordinary rain events now cause flooding in the streets of Norfolk, including large connector streets going underwater.
- Norfolk naval base, the largest navy base in the world, is currently replacing 14 piers due to sea level rise, at a cost of $35-40 million per pier.
- According to Old Dominion University’s Center for Sea Level Rise, the city of Norfolk alone will need at least $1 billion in the coming decades to replace current infrastructure and keep water out of city homes and businesses.
- According to a recent study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, costs from three feet of sea-level rise in the Hampton Roads region are expected to range between $12 billion and $87 billion.