|RICHMOND(September 20, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s unprecedented effort to block state-level action to reduce air pollution from cars and encourage the development of clean car technology and jobs. In the lawsuit, the coalition alleges that the Trump Administration’s Preemption Rule is unlawful and should be vacated.
The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under President Trump have announced a plan to revoke California’s authority to establish vehicle pollution standards that meet its needs. These standards, which have been adopted at least in part by thirteen other states and the District of Columbia, are vital to curbing pollution and addressing air quality issues and the climate crisis, especially in light of the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken federal vehicle pollution standards. In May 2018, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues sued Trump’s EPA for attempting to gut the federal Clean Car standards.
“In addition to rolling back critical climate change efforts nationwide, the Trump Administration is now trying to make it harder for states to combat this crisis themselves,” said Attorney General Herring. “The threat of climate change is growing more serious every day and state-wide pollution standards have shown to be an effective way to have more clean cars on the roads, cleaner air, lower prices at the pump, and ultimately healthier Americans. By trampling on states’ authority, the Trump Administration is doing what is best for the oil companies instead of what is best for our planet.”
Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal government’s standards. California retains this authority in order to address the extraordinary and compelling air pollution issues affecting the state, and other states may also choose to adopt these standards.
California’s standards have proven remarkably effective, reducing air pollution by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraging the development of pollution controls technologies, and contributing to stronger federal standards.
In attempting to justify the unprecedented revocation of California’s ability to set its own pollution standards, the Trump Administration is using a tired and unsuccessful argument that such authority is preempted by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). This argument has been rejected by Congress, the courts, and by the EPA itself.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Herring is asking the court to strike down the regulation as unlawful on the basis that NHTSA:
- Purports to exercise authority that Congress has not granted the agency: namely, to decree what EPCA does or does not preempt;
- Imagines an inherent conflict between two sets of rules, California’s greenhouse gas and zero-emission vehicle standards and NHTSA’s fuel economy standards, that have co-existed for years;
- Willfully misreads EPCA as preempting state emission standards it explicitly directed NHTSA to account for, and as implicitly repealing portions of the Clean Air Act;
- Ignores the authority and intent of Congress, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and embraced California’s authority over the last four decades;
- Flouts the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess or analyze the damage that the agency’s Preemption Rule will inflict on the environment and public health;
- Acts arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to explain about-faces from its previous positions or its reasons for acting;
- Fails to respect states’ authority to protect public health and welfare; and
- Disregards the role these standards play in helping California and other states meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Attorney General Herring is part of a coalition opposing President Trump’s plan and any weakening of the Clean Car Standards. The coalition stands strong to defend our nation’s Clean Car Standards as well as California’s strict limits on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and its Zero Emission Vehicles program, both of which protect the health and safety of its residents.