California Sues EPA Over Emission Standard Rollbacks

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 02, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The State of California, along with 16 other states and the District of Columbia, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to review possible new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, rolling back vehicle emissions standards. While those rules have yet to be written, the suit is an opening salvo in yet another battle between the Trump administration and states over greenhouse gas rules. Last month, a different federal court blocked the EPA's attempt to delay gas guzzler fines for cars and trucks failing to meet emissions standards.

Here's a look at the latest lawsuit:

EPA's New Direction

Last month, the EPA announced it was "making a new determination" of greenhouse gas emissions standards for model year 2022-2025 vehicles. While new standards have not been formally set, the EPA announced it was withdrawing standards it set under the Obama administration, because "current standards are based on outdated information, and that more recent information suggests that the current standards may be too stringent." That proposed rollback has many states (especially California, which has been permitted to set stricter emissions standards than the federal government) scrambling to hold Trump's EPA and new director Scott Pruitt to Obama-era promises.

The suit itself is light on legal argument, as the states merely "petition [the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ]for review of the final action of Respondents United States Environmental Protection Agency and Administrator E. Scott Pruitt set forth" last month. "This is a preliminary challenge. It's a shot across the bow," professor of environmental law at Harvard University Jody Freeman told the New York Times. "It sets the table to challenge the agency's reasons for rolling back the rule, if they go ahead and do it."

Emissions, Life, and Death

California Governor Jerry Brown seems pretty certain Pruitt's EPA will roll back the emission standards. "States representing 140 million Americans are getting together to sue Outlaw Pruitt -- not Administrator Pruitt, but Outlaw Pruitt," Brown said, at a news conference regarding the lawsuit. "This is about health, it's about life and death. I'm going to fight it with everything I can."

You can view the full petition below:

Cal v EPA by FindLaw on Scribd

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