California Joins 16 States to Sue EPA's Plan to Scrap Smog Standards

May 3, 2018

California has no intention of weakening its clean air regulations, regardless of what the EPA at the national level says. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit Tuesday (petition here including the April 2 Federal Register notice) challenging the Environmental Protection Agency and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's determination that Obama-era requirements for carbon dioxide emissions and higher gas mileage requirements by 2025 for cars and light trucks are too stringent and must be revised.

Pruitt has said the Obama administration's assumptions about gas prices and vehicle technology were too optimistic, arguing the standards as written will hurt car makers and people who can't or don't want to buy more fuel efficient cars. Currently, the EPA rule requires vehicles attain a fleet average of more than 50 miles per gallon 2025 in an effort to control greenhouse gas emissions and their effects by burning less fossil fuel. The auto industry maintains that achieving the 2025 standard will cost billions of dollars, causing car makers to raise prices.

California officials say the standards are achievable and the EPA 's effort to repeal them is not based on any new research.

California has its own frequently more stringent tailpipe emissions requirements which 13 other states and District of Columbia have seen fit to agree with and legislate as their own. The EPA's new plan seeks to withdraw California's ability to set its own standards. Doing so would please auto makers because as long as California is able to set its own standards under the waiver the Obama administration granted the state, car makers must manufacture vehicles that meet CARB's rules if they want to sell cars and light trucks in California or any other state that has adopted California's rules.

The Washington Post says the total market involved is 36 percent of sales in the United States, according to Margo Oge, a former EPA official who helped the agency set auto regulations during the Obama years.

“If you are a car company, that is a pretty big deal. You have uncertainty how this thing is going to work out, and today you have to be investing in cars you’re going to build five years from now,” she said.

California argues Pruitt's EPA plan violates the federal Clean Air Act and didn't follow the agency's own regulations. The lawsuit contends that the EPA acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in changing course on the greenhouse gas regulations.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining California are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.