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California, 16 States, District of Columbia Are Officially Suing EPA for Slashing Fuel Efficiency, Emissions Rules

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It’s time to put away those qualifying words and phrases like “impending,” “expect to soon,” or “in the event of” when discussing California’s’ opposition to EPA plans to slash Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions regulations. California, along with 16 other states and the District of Columbia, is suing the EPA over its decision to declare the existing fuel efficiency and emissions rules through 2025 “not appropriate.”

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EPA head Scott Pruitt

Those standards would have nominally been to create fleet-wide average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025. But due to the fact that this is tested in a lab-like environment, it would have ended up amounting to an average of about 36 mpg in the real world.

The states appear to be drawing a hard line in the sand. California Governor Jerry Brown announced the suit in Sacramento by accusing the EPA of “breaking the law,” and adding “This is about health, it’s about life and death.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that to justify slashing the rules, the “Trump administration conducted a phony study.”

In the lawsuit, the states assert that the EPA under Scott Pruitt has acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow the EPA’s own regulations, and violated the Clean Air Act.

The states involved with the lawsuit, in addition to California and the District of Columbia, are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Of that number, 11 also have opted to follow California’s emissions regulations rather than the less-stringent federal standards.

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This lawsuit was initiated after a letter from Senator Tom Carper to Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. This letter said that, according to a draft proposal obtained by Carper, the administration would attempt to freeze fuel efficiency and emissions standards through 2026, leading to an average of 37 mpg by 2026. Carper pointed out that it would result in Americans using 206 billion more gallons of gasoline through 2050 compared to using existing rules.

It also follows rumors that the Trump administration, through Scott Pruitt, would attack California’s right to declare its own emissions-control laws as long as they are more stringent than federal ones.

This is probably not what the automakers would have liked to happen, since protracted legal battles over regulations mean uncertainty over the future and could make more fuel-efficient vehicle technology more of a gamble.


News Sources: Jalopnik, Seattle Times, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report