23 States Are Suing the Trump Administration For Weakening Auto Emission Regulations

On Wednesday, 23 states, 4 cities and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration accusing it of endangering public health with its rollback of the Obama-era Clean Car Standards which sought to make cars more fuel efficient.

The lawsuit, which was filed by in the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, claims that the Trump Administration's Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle rule—a Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy which rolled back efforts to require more miles per gallon from U.S. car manufacturers—is based on faulty science opposed by the EPA's own staff.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to review the decision-making process by the EPA, the Transportation Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Plaintiffs also claim the SAFE Vehicle rule violates the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The SAFE Vehicle rule would lower the federal goal for fuel-efficiency standards from Clean Car Standards of 54 miles per gallon by 2025 to 40 miles per gallon by 2026. Additionally, the Trump Administration's rules seek to forbid states from setting their own fuel efficiency standards.

EPA calculations determined that the rule change would result in the use of nearly 2 billion additional barrels of fuel being used, creating anywhere from 867 million to 923 million additional metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, contributing to rising global temperatures.

A March 26 email from Bill Charmley, head of the EPA's assessment and standards division at EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Michigan, said that the Trump Administration hadn't addressed 250 comments he and his team made trying to verify language and data on the proposed SAFE Vehicle rule.

"Factually inaccurate text has still not been corrected in numerous places," Charmley wrote.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra agrees with the staffers' assessment and estimates the rule change will eliminate over 13,000 auto industry jobs across the United States.

"[The SAFE vehicle rule] will increase costs to consumers and allow the emission of dangerous pollutants that directly threaten the health of our families," Becerra said.

car auto emissions
Evening traffic fills the 101 freeway near Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. David McNew/Getty

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington were among the states who joined the lawsuit.

A similar suit has also been filed by a coalition of environmental groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club and others.

"The Trump administration's rollback of the Clean Car Standards will hurt Americans, increase harmful pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, and cost consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump," the Environmental Defense Fund's lead attorney Peter Zalzal said in a statement.

The Trump administration had called the Obama administration's Clean Car Standards "infeasible" stating that its new rules set more achievable standards for auto manufacturers to meet and lower vehicle costs for U.S. consumers.

Opponents of the SAFE Vehicle rule worry that American cars with lower fuel efficiency standards may be less competitive in foreign markets, especially as more countries invest in renewable and green energy.

Newsweek reached out to the Sierra Club for additional comment. This story will be updated with any response.