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Attorney General William Tong

09/20/2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG SUES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OVER ATTEMPT TO TRAMPLE CALIFORNIA’S AUTHORITY TO MAINTAIN LONGSTANDING CLEAN CAR STANDARDS

(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in a lawsuit against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful regulation designed to preempt California’s greenhouse gas emissions and Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards, also known as California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards.

These standards — authorized in 2013 by a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and followed in part or whole by 13 other states including Connecticut and the District of Columbia — are a key part of state efforts to protect public health and the environment. In the lawsuit, the coalition asserts that this Preemption Rule is unlawful and should be vacated.

"Attorneys general from across the country are suing the Trump Administration today to fight this baseless, reckless and unlawful attack on clean air, public health and states' rights. The more stringent California emissions standards are incorporated into Connecticut law. This is a blatant assault on California's, and by extension Connecticut's, right to control vehicle emissions that contribute to climate change and the air we breathe. The decision today is another step in this administration's goal to dismantle environmental protections. Automakers themselves oppose this reckless and needless overreach because they know low and zero emissions vehicles are critical to our future. The Trump Administration has zero authority or basis to pull the waiver," said Attorney General Tong.

Yesterday, Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes also issued statements condemning the Trump Administration’s unprecedented action to revoke California’s waiver to establish vehicle emissions standards for greenhouse gas emissions and standards to require manufacturers to sell zero emissions vehicles.

These standards are vital to curbing emissions, and addressing air quality issues and the climate crisis.

“The Administration’s decision to revoke California’s power to limit vehicle emissions is bad for Connecticut consumers and even worse for public health. Being downwind, Connecticut already combats the effects of lower quality air from less regulated neighboring states —resulting in some of the worst asthma rates in the nation. This decision will only exacerbate the problem and lead to higher air pollution and increased health risks for our families," said Governor Lamont.

“In Connecticut, motor vehicles account for over 65 percent of smog forming pollution and 40 percent of carbon pollution linked to climate change. If the Trump Administration’s action is allowed to stand, our climate and air quality will suffer. I applaud our Attorney General for joining in the fight to protect our state’s rights and the health and safety of our children and families," said Commissioner Dykes.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may apply for a waiver from EPA to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal government’s standards, and EPA must approve the waiver, unless it makes certain findings.

Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted 100 waivers to California. Thanks to California’s vehicle emissions program, the state and others that have adopted the standards have reduced emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies, and paved the way for stronger federal standards.

In January 2012, California adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Cars Program for cars and light duty trucks in model years 2017 through 2025. The program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions into a single coordinated package.

On its own, following California's program, Connecticut would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state by approximately 1.4 million metric tons a year by 2025 and 2.5 million metric tons a year by 2030.

Through its unlawful Preemption Regulation, NHTSA is attempting to declare the California greenhouse gas and ZEV standards preempted under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), based on arguments repeatedly rejected by multiple courts. In doing so, NHTSA oversteps the authority granted to it by Congress and ignores Congress’s careful and repeated preservation of California’s authority.

In the lawsuit, Connecticut asks 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 GHG and ZEV 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.

In addition to Connecticut, the coalition led by California Attorney General Becerra includes the attorneys general of Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York.

Assistant Attorneys General Scott Koschwitz and Matt Levine, Head of the Environment Department, assisted the Attorney General in this matter.

Twitter: @AGWilliamTong
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