RICHMOND (May 27, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a multistate coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s disastrous final rule rolling back the national Clean Car Standards. The previous standards required appropriate and feasible improvements in fuel economy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. Since their introduction in 2010, these standards have saved consumers money, reduced harmful emissions, and helped protect the health of our communities. The Trump Administration’s misguided Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule will stop this progress in its tracks, hurting the economy and public health at a time when the country can least afford it. In the lawsuit, the coalition will argue that the final rule unlawfully violates the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“From the outset, President Trump and his administration have shown absolutely no regard for protecting our environment and fighting climate change. This replacement rule will not only make our air dirtier, putting the health of our children, seniors, and communities at risk, but it will also increase the climate change costs for individual states,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia is already feeling the devastating effects of climate change, especially in Hampton Roads, where nuisance flooding has become a frequent occurrence and the world’s largest naval base in Norfolk is faced with the serious threat of sea level rise. The Trump Administration’s new SAFE rule will force our country to go backwards on the progress we have made in combating climate change and I will do everything I can to stop that.”
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the California Air Resources Board, and car manufacturers established a unified national program harmonizing greenhouse gas 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 and issued a final determination affirming that the existing standards were appropriate and would not be changed.
The following year, the Trump Administration took its first step toward dismantling the national Clean Car Standards by reversing the final determination with a new mid-term evaluation that alleged the standards were no longer appropriate or feasible. The Trump Administration later made its rollback proposal official, despite the fact that the auto industry was currently on track to meet or exceed the Clean Car Standards. In October 2018, Attorney General Herring and a coalition of 21 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and New York, submitted comments demanding that the Trump Administration withdraw its proposed rule.
On March 31, 2020, the Trump Administration announced its final rule rolling back the Clean Car Standards. The rule takes aim at the corporate average fuel efficiency standards, requiring automakers to make only minimal improvements to fuel economy—on the order of 1.5 percent annually instead of the previously anticipated annual increase of approximately 5 percent. The rule also guts the requirements to reduce vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions, allowing hundreds of millions of metric tons of avoidable carbon emissions into our atmosphere over the next decade.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the Trump Administration’s rollback of the national Clean Cars Standards is unlawful because, among other things:
- The EPA and NHTSA’s rollbacks violate the statutory text and congressional mandates they are bound by; and
- The EPA and NHTSA improperly and unlawfully relied on an analysis riddled with errors, omissions, and unfounded assumptions in an attempt to justify their desired result.
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.
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s lawsuit are the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The California Air Resources Board, the Cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Denver, and the Counties of San Francisco and Denver also joined the coalition in filing the lawsuit.