Greens sue EPA to keep Calif. waiver

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2019

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups have launched another legal battle over EPA’s move to block California from setting its own vehicle emission rules.

The lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, follows a multistate challenge to stop the Trump administration from rescinding a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows the Golden State to set stricter greenhouse gas and zero-emissions vehicle standards than those imposed by the federal government (E&E News PM, Nov. 15).

“Getting rid of clean car standards when air pollution is on the rise is dumb, and in our view, unlawful,” said Doug Phelps, chairman of Environment America, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. “Carmakers have the technology to improve emissions, and Americans want healthier air.”

The Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists also joined the litigation.

The Trump administration’s decision to walk back California’s waiver prompted backlash from states, greens and local air regulators, who claim that preventing the state from setting stricter standards would result in dirtier air and regulatory uncertainty — especially for more than a dozen other states that have also adopted the Golden State standards.

Critics say EPA’s move is both unprecedented and illegal.

“Kids with asthma shouldn’t have to breathe dirtier air because Donald Trump has a grudge against California,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump officials have no legal right to crush Californians’ efforts to protect our lungs from smog and our planet from the carbon pollution pouring out of cars and SUVs.”

Green groups and blue states have also filed lawsuits over the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s move to preempt California’s waiver under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

Legal action is live in both the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia due to uncertainty over the proper venue for the cases.