Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and counterparts in 22 other states on Wednesday filed a lawsuit aimed at killing the Trump administration’s rollback of fuel-efficiency standards for reducing climate-warming gases and other harmful air pollution from vehicle tailpipes.
Led by California, the states and major cities — including Denver — have asked federal judges to reverse Trump’s Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicle Rule, which was finalized in March and loosened requirements set under the Obama administration to make cars and light pickup trucks about 5% more efficient each year.
Trump’s rule means vehicles over the next decade would emit hundreds of millions more tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. Instead of making cars that can cover 54 miles per gallon by 2025, automakers could make cars that cover 40 mpg by 2026.
Federal officials argue this will make new cars more affordable, encouraging more Americans to upgrade to relatively cleaner cars.
This lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, contends the Trump rule violates the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“We so depend on protecting our land, air and water for our lifestyle,” Weiser said in a conference call Wednesday with attorneys general Xavier Becerra of California and Dana Nessel of Michigan.
“Climate change is not a theoretical, looming challenge. It is there today,” Weiser said, referring to “less natural snowpack than ever before” and a growing burden on future generations to deal with climate change impacts.
He cited a U.S. Supreme Court case that, more than a decade ago, established EPA power to regulate pollution that causes climate change.
“It is the job of the courts to get the EPA on track,” Weiser said.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, in a prepared statement, noted that vehicle emissions are a top contributor to air pollution over the city and are fueling climate change — causing harm to the public’s health and prosperity.
“If these rules are rolled back, the Trump administration will negate the progress that has happened across the country in these areas during a critical point in history,” Hancock said. “We are past due for our country taking more meaningful action, which is why Denver joined this important lawsuit.”
In 2010, EPA officials, state leaders and automakers began working to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases and other pollution from passenger cars and light trucks made after 2017. Automakers have been working to meet these standards. Since 2018, Trump administration officials have been saying the standards are inappropriate and no longer feasible.
The lawsuit is the latest by states led by Democratic governors challenging rollbacks under the Trump administration’s EPA that leave states more on their own to deal with climate and health threats.
Colorado public health officials have been trying to carry out an order by state lawmakers to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution from about 125 million tons a year to around 62 million tons by 2030 and 13 million tons by 2050.
EPA rollbacks include weakening of protection for waterways and wetlands, rejecting a tougher limit on soot, and reducing control over mercury pollution from power plants. Trump administration officials have said the environment is cleaner than it was in the past and that they are ending what they call Obama-era regulatory overreach in order to increase economic growth.
In addition to Colorado, California and Michigan, the states participating in the lawsuit include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia. Denver is joined by the cities of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
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