May 27, 2020 - Energy & Environment

States sue Trump administration over fuel efficiency rollbacks

Los Angeles.
Smog hangs over Los Angeles on June 11, 2019. Photo: Getty Images

A group of 23 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.

The big picture: The administration's final rule on the Clean Car Standards was announced in late March, targeting future fuel economy standards and requiring automakers to make improvements of 1.5% annually through 2026, rather than the previously anticipated 5% increase in efficiency requirements.

Why it matters: The long-anticipated lawsuit is arguably one of the most high-profile battles between the Trump administration and Democratic states over environmental regulations, writes Axios' Amy Harder.

  • The administration has argued the new rule will lower car prices and save automakers billions of dollars in regulatory costs.
  • The states, however, argue the measure will increase costs to customers and say it violates laws that require the federal government to regulate environmental standards.
  • The states also argue that the administration "relied on an analysis riddled with errors, omissions, and unfounded assumptions in an attempt to justify their desired result."

What they're saying:

“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.”
— Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in a news release

Our thought bubble: These regulations were the most sweeping climate-change policies from President Obama and hugely impacted automakers. The automakers now find themselves stuck between the administration and states like California, which are leading with more aggressive standards.

What to watch via the New York Times: "The battle is widely expected to reach the Supreme Court."

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