Attorney General James Sues the Trump Administration

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general, the cities of Los Angeles and New York, and the California Air Resources Board, in filing a lawsuit against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to challenge the Trump Administration’s unlawful regulation designed to preempt greenhouse gas emissions and Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards. These standards – authorized in 2013 by a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and followed by New York, 12 other states, and the District of Columbia – are a key part of New York’s efforts to protect public health and the environment. In the lawsuit, the coalition asserts that this Preemption Rule is unlawful and should be vacated.

“There is no legal rhyme or reason for the Trump Administration to revoke states’ right to set their own standards,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Cars and trucks are the largest source of climate change pollution and the Trump Administration’s attempt to rob New York and other states of their authority to adopt standards to stanch this pollution – and defend their residents against the increasing ravages of climate change – is an affront to states’ rights and will only hurt our environment. My office will use every legal tool in our arsenal to protect the wellbeing of New Yorkers and all Americans.”

“The Trump Administration’s latest misguided and illegal action ignores settled law and fundamental principles of federalism in attempting to preclude California, New York, and other states from continuing to implement standards that protect the environment and our communities from the worsening impacts of climate change and harmful air pollution,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “New York will not stand by and sacrifice our future to the short-term interests of the fossil fuel industry. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James, New York will continue our nation-leading efforts to reduce the pollution that causes climate change, despite the Trump Administration’s intransigence, and work with our partner states to obtain a judgment vacating this illegal action.”

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may apply for a waiver from EPA to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal government’s standards, and EPA must approve the waiver, unless it makes certain findings. Other states then have the option to adopt California’s standards. From the beginning, New York and nearly a dozen other states have adopted California’s greenhouse gas standards. These standards have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies, and paved the way for stronger federal standards.

In January 2012, California adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Cars Program for cars and light duty trucks in model years 2017 through 2025. The program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions into a single coordinated package and improves air quality and curbs greenhouse gas emissions. On its own, the California program would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state by approximately 14.4 million metric tons a year by 2025 and 25.2 million metric tons a year by 2030. When accounting for emissions savings from other states that have adopted California’s standards, these emission reductions nearly triple. In New York, the standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 6.2 million metric tons a year by 2025, and 10.2 million metric tons a year by 2030.

Through its unlawful Preemption Regulation, NHTSA is attempting to declare the California greenhouse gas and ZEV standards preempted under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), based on arguments repeatedly rejected by multiple courts. In doing so, NHTSA oversteps its authority and ignores Congress’s careful and repeated preservation of state authority with respect to this matter.

In the lawsuit, New York asks the court to strike down the regulation as unlawful on the basis that NHTSA:

* Purports to exercise authority that Congress has not granted the agency: namely, to decree what EPCA does or does not preempt;

* Imagines an inherent conflict between two sets of rules, California’s GHG and ZEV standards and NHTSA’s fuel economy standards, that have co-existed for years and that the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA has said can be harmonized;

* Willfully misreads EPCA as preempting state emission standards it explicitly directed NHTSA to account for, and as implicitly repealing portions of the Clean Air Act;

* Ignores the authority and intent of Congress, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and embraced California’s authority over the last four decades;

* Flouts the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess or analyze the damage that the agency’s Preemption Rule will inflict on the environment and public health;

* Acts arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to explain about-faces from its previous positions or its reasons for acting;


* Fails to respect states’ authority to protect public health and welfare; and

* Disregards the role these standards play in helping California and other states meet EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Joining New York Attorney General Letitia James in filing this lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, 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.

This matter is being handled for Attorney General James by Assistant Attorneys General Gavin G. McCabe, Yueh-Ru Chu, Austin Thompson, and Michael J. Myers, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux.

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