Attorney General Becerra Files Motion to Intervene in Lawsuit to Defend America's Clean Car Standards

Friday, May 29, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, leading a multistate coalition, filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend the nation's Clean Car Standards against a challenge by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The coalition seeks to intervene in order to counter any arguments by CEI that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) should have adopted weaker greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards, as well as to oppose any attempts by CEI to limit the ability of these agencies to adopt more robust standards in the future. On Wednesday, Attorney General Becerra led a separate coalition in filing a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s disastrous Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule, arguing that this lenient new rule to replace the established Clean Car Standards would endanger public health and the environment at a time when the country can least afford it.

“We’ll go to the mat to defend our nation's Clean Car Standards against any illegal dismantling by the Trump Administration, including this latest unfounded lawsuit by its transparent allies,” said Attorney General Becerra. “CEI would like to take America back to the 20th Century. We’re prepared to remind CEI that this is 2020, not 1920.” 

In 2010, EPA, NHTSA, the California Air Resources Board and car manufacturers collaborated in the establishment of a unified national program, the Clean Car Standards, harmonizing state and federal greenhouse gas emission standards as well as federal fuel efficiency standards applicable to vehicles in America. Two years later, the agencies extended the national program to apply to model years 2017-2025 vehicles. As part of the program, EPA undertook a midterm evaluation to determine if the greenhouse gas emission standards for model years 2022-2025 vehicles should be maintained or revised. In January of 2017, under the Obama Administration, EPA issued a final determination affirming that the existing standards were appropriate and would not be changed. Shortly thereafter, the Trump Administration issued a new mid-term evaluation that alleged the standards were no longer appropriate or feasible. On March 31, 2020, the Trump Administration announced a final rule, the SAFE rule, rolling back the Clean Car Standards.

The so-called SAFE rule undermines the corporate average fuel efficiency standards. It would require automakers to make only minimal improvements to fuel economy—on the order of 1.5 percent annually instead of the previously determined rate of approximately 5 percent annually. The rule also guts requirements to reduce vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions, allowing hundreds of millions of metric tons of avoidable carbon emissions into our atmosphere over the next decade.

In April, CEI filed a lawsuit challenging the SAFE rule. CEI claims that even the minimally higher fuel economy standards required by the rule distort the market, increase vehicle costs, and lead to more fatalities. In light of the Trump Administration’s recent efforts to roll back the Clean Car Standards, our coalition seeks to intervene in CEI’s lawsuit in order to defend the well-established authority possessed by EPA and NHTSA to set the rigorous standards required by the Clean Air Act and Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

Attorney General Becerra has been a staunch defender of the nation's Clean Car Standards and of California’s right to set its vehicle emissions standards. In October 2018, Attorney General Becerra, leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general and the cities of Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and New York, submitted comments detailing numerous, fundamental flaws with the Trump rollback proposal and demanding that the Trump Administration withdraw it. The month before, in September 2018, Attorney General Becerra joined officials from around California to testify in defense of the nation’s existing Clean Car Standards at a public hearing in Fresno, California. Attorney General Becerra is also leading a coalition of 24 attorneys general and the cities of Los Angeles and New York challenging the Trump Administration’s unlawful attempt to undo California’s greenhouse gas emission and zero emission vehicle standards.

In filing the motion, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The City of Denver, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District also joined the coalition in filing the lawsuit. 

More information on Attorney General Becerra's efforts to defend our nation’s Clean Car Standards and California’s greenhouse gas emission and zero emission vehicle standards can be found at

A copy of the motion can be found here.

# # #