With the focus of the auto industry shifting west for the opening this week of the Los Angeles Auto Show, California is taking the lead in moving forward with a lawsuit that will block efforts by the Trump administration to roll back federal fuel efficiency standards.
California has been joined by 22 other states and the District of Columbia to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plaintiffs are asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the Trump administration from stripping it of its long-standing authority to set its own fuel-efficiency standards on cars and trucks.
The filing also includes a petition asking the court to review the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s effort to preempt California’s right to set tailpipe emission standards, according to the website Seeking Alpha.
The Trump administration acted in September to revoke California’s ability to set air pollution standards for cars, trucks and SUVs that go beyond those required by the federal government.
California enjoys an exemption under the 1970 Clean Air Act that allows it to get a federal waiver to set more stringent air pollution standards; the EPA granted the state a waiver to set tailpipe emission standards in 2009 by the Obama administration.
Brian Johnson, managing director for global autos research at Barclays Bank, noted during an appearance in Detroit, that the power of California to set its own fuel-economy standards has been litigated a number of times throughout the years.
The Bush administration challenged California’s ability to control greenhouse gases. However, in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Massachusetts vs. EPA, that states do have the right to regulate greenhouse gasses, which have been identified as a significant cause of climate change. The Bush administration had challenged the right of individual states to regulate greenhouse gasses.
One of the goals of fuel economy standards proposed by the State of California, with the concurrence of the Obama administration, was to limit greenhouse gasses.
The fight of the fuel-economy standards has split the auto industry, which initially had endorsed the idea of re-opening a “midcycle review” to look at whether meeting the California standards is feasible with current technology.
However, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Honda have elected to side with California, while General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia have sided with the Trump administration, saying they believe a single federal standard is necessary.
Meanwhile, the state of California has responded by halting the purchase of GM and Toyota vehicles.