California Sues Trump for Vehicle Emissions Data

(AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)

(CN) – Vehicle emissions standards are once again at the center of a legal fight between California and the federal government.

The California Air Resources Board sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday, seeking the underlying data and analysis used to justify the rollback of emissions standards undertaken by the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration is willfully withholding information on their ill-advised rollback of federal vehicle emission standards because there is simply no science or logic to back up their actions,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the Golden State sought the records in a September 2018 Freedom of Information Act request, but has been repeatedly stonewalled by the federal agencies.

“EPA has failed to issue timely determinations regarding the requests,” Becerra wrote in the 79-page complaint filed in the District of Columbia. “NHTSA responded to the requests, but withheld information requested by CARB based on inadequate justifications, and in some instances without justification or explanation.”

California and 17 other states have already sued the Trump administration claiming its efforts to weaken Obama-era fuel efficiency standards were illegal.

Specifically, the states claim the rejection of the standards violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets forth the process by which federal agencies implement policy.

Last August, the Trump administration moved to weaken emissions and fuel efficiency standards developed during the administration of Barack Obama. During Obama’s presidency, the federal government and experts argued increasing fuel efficiency of America’s vehicles would be a boon for public health, help address climate change and help consumers’ pocketbooks.

California says the rollback will mean an increase in carbon emissions by 15 million metric tons per year by 2025.

The Trump administration argued requiring cars to get 54 miles to the gallon will make vehicles more expensive, hurt the auto industry and force people to drive older, less safe cars.

Under Trump, the EPA and the Highway Safety Administration said the fuel efficiency standards would mean $500 billion in social costs and lead to 1,000 more traffic fatalities per year.

California seeks the data the administration used to come up with these numbers.

“The public has a right to see all the facts and analysis used to support a rollback that increases oil consumption, hurts consumers, and pumps more air pollution and hundreds of million tons of climate-changing gases into the atmosphere,” said Mary Nichols, chair of air resources board.

During an auto show in Washington last week, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler predicted California and his agency would go to court over the standards.

“I believe we are on firm legal footing and our standards will be upheld by the courts,” Wheeler said.

In an internal analysis, a group of EPA scientists said modeling used by the two agencies to justify the rollback was flawed and that abandoning the standards will actually lead to approximately 17 more traffic fatalities annually.

The analysis also found the Obama rules would costs jobs and have public health effects that would end up costing $83 billion more.

The Trump administration has also proposed revoking the Clean Air Act waiver that allows states to establish tougher fuel efficiency standards independent of the federal government. California maintains considerable market power, meaning automakers are likely to build cars conforming to its requirements irrespective of federal standards.

If the federal government is able to force California to abide by the weakened efficiency standards, it could neutralize the Golden State’s influence.

California and other states are expected to sue again once the Trump administration finalizes its fuel efficiency standards and revokes the waiver.

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