Blue states: ‘We’ll go to the mat’ over car rules rollback

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 1, 2020

A lawsuit filed by a libertarian think tank against the new national vehicle emission standards would undermine the federal government’s responsibility to regulate air pollution, a coalition of blue states told an appeals court Friday.

Twenty states, two cities and three local air quality regulators last week moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) over the new Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Climatewire, April 30).

The looser greenhouse gas emissions standards that CEI seeks, the states argue, threaten the regulatory role of EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — the entities responsible for rolling out the SAFE Vehicles Rule.

CEI said it plans to argue that NHTSA’s own cost-benefit analysis shows that less-strict emissions standards for cars would have been more beneficial than the finalized SAFE rule.

“[We] request intervention for the purpose of opposing any arguments that EPA and NHTSA should have adopted weaker greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards, respectively, for model year 2021-2026 cars and light trucks,” the states wrote in their court filing.

“Several recent actions taken by Respondents call into question their commitment to robustly regulate the emissions and fuel economy of cars and light trucks,” they continued.

Attorneys general from California, New York and other states that have filed their own lawsuit over the SAFE rule threw their weight behind last week’s motion in the CEI challenge (E&E News PM, May 27).

While CEI calls for even less regulation of the auto sector, the states insist the rollback of Obama-era greenhouse gas emission regulations for cars will harm consumers’ health and pocketbooks.

“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,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who led the multistate lawsuit and last week’s motion to intervene, said in a statement.

“CEI would like to take America back to the 20th Century,” he continued. “We’re prepared to remind CEI that this is 2020, not 1920.”

CEI says Becerra isn’t “totally wrong” when he says the group is trying to “take America back in time,” according to a statement by the organization’s general counsel, Sam Kazman.

“We’re trying to take it back to a time when consumers could choose what kinds of cars to drive and not have to worry about their being made less safe by overregulation,” he wrote.