Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Against EPA for Attacking California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards

Friday, November 15, 2019
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California is joined by 23 other attorneys general, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York 

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today led a multistate coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to revoke the portions of a waiver it granted California in 2013 that permit the state to implement its greenhouse gas (GHG) and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards. The action, filed in the D.C. Circuit, is part of the state’s ongoing fight to protect California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards. These standards are followed, in whole or in part, by 13 other states and are a key part of state efforts to protect public health and the environment.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: California will not back down when it comes to protecting our people, our health, and our environment from preventable pollution,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California’s Clean Car Standards are achievable. They not only work, many other states around the country have chosen to adopt them. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, has chosen to side with polluters. We believe we’re on the right side of history.” 

“The Trump Administration continues to weaponize federal agencies in his war against public health and clean air,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom, a named plaintiff in this lawsuit. “California won’t back down – we, along with major automakers who voluntarily signed onto our framework, know that the future is clean cars. There’s no time to waste and we’ll continue to fight to defend our state’s rights to set our own standards.”

“Today’s action marks a new chapter in CARB’s long battle to clean the air Californians breathe,” said California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols. “We will be asking the court to declare that our right to demand cleaner cars and trucks is protected under the federal Clean Air Act and cannot be taken away by the Trump Administration simply because they don’t believe in the science of climate change — or because they want to punish us for taking action. For over 50 years, we have used our authority to push the auto manufacturers to build cleaner cars, using state of the art technology. We are not about to be turned around by these bullies.”

"Angelenos' health is at stake. That's why we've joined Attorney General Becerra and others in fighting the Administration's unlawful attack on California's efforts to clean up our air," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.  "Our residents know the devastating impact of pollution from cars on their well-being, and they're incredulous that the President would try to roll back standards that protect them."   

Today’s filing also includes a protective petition that asks the D.C. Circuit to review a separate regulation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designed to preempt California’s GHG and ZEV standards. On September 20, 2019, Attorney General Becerra, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Air Resources Board, and a coalition of 24 attorneys general and three cities, filed a lawsuit in the district court in Washington, D.C. alleging that NHTSA’s preemption regulation is unlawful and should be vacated. The federal government has moved to dismiss that case on the grounds that it belongs in D.C. Circuit Court, and briefing is ongoing. While California’s coalition maintains that the district court has jurisdiction in this challenge, in the event the court disagrees, the protective portion of today’s petition preserves the coalition’s ability to challenge NHTSA’s preemption regulation.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may obtain a waiver from EPA to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal government’s standards. Under certain conditions, other states have the option to adopt California’s standards. Congress granted California this option for several reasons, including: California’s historical leadership in vehicle emissions regulation; California’s need to address the extraordinary and compelling air pollution issues affecting the state; and the benefits the nation accrues from allowing California and willing states to foster advances in reducing pollution from vehicles. Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted more than 100 waivers for California standards. Thanks to those standards, the state has reduced emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies, and contributed to stronger federal standards, all as Congress intended.

In January 2012, California adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Cars Program for cars and light duty trucks for model years 2017 through 2025. The program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and GHG emissions into a single coordinated package. The program improves air quality and curbs GHG while saving drivers money at the pump. When accounting for emissions savings from other states that have adopted California’s standards, these emission reductions nearly triple. 

Joining Attorney General Becerra in today’s filing are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York.

A copy of the filing is available here

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