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Attorney General William Tong

05/27/2020

Attorney General Tong Files Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Reckless Rollback of National Clean Car Standards

(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong today joined a multistate coalition 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 stops 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.

“No one wants dirty and inefficient vehicles—not consumers, and not automakers. The Trump Administration has ignored basic federal environmental laws and administrative procedures in a knee-jerk rush to roll back regulations. This rule will have disastrous implications for our climate for decades to come. Our coalition will leave no legal stone unturned to protect our clean air,” said Attorney General Tong.

“Now more than ever, we depend on a strong defense of our well-established state authority to reduce transportation sector air pollution, which is accelerating climate change and endangering the health of Connecticut families,” said Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes. “As the rest of the world is demanding cleaner and more efficient vehicles, the Trump Administration’s environmental rollbacks continue to be the wrong policy at the absolute wrong time and will only increase emissions of GHGs and other dangerous pollutants, increase consumer costs at the pump, and continue to put U.S. auto makers and a large portion of our national economy at a global competitive disadvantage.”

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.

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, the coalition will 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.

Attorney General Tong joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, 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.

More information on the coalition's efforts to defend our nation’s Clean Car Standards and California’s greenhouse gas emission and zero emission vehicle standards can be found at oag.ca.gov/cleancars.

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

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