States Take A Stand

While the White House and Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, have indicated their plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards set by the Obama administration in 2011, the attorneys general of 12 states and Washington District of Columbia have pledged to sue the EPA if the roll back happens. The states — California, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oregon, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland — made their intentions clear in a letter to Pruitt.

Back in 2011, President Obama's administration made the deal with automakers, who agreed to work on doubling their average fuel efficiency fleet-wide until it reaches 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The parties also agreed to undergo mid-term evaluations no later than April 2018 to ensure progress was on track. Under former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the evaluations were ahead of schedule, so the administration did not make any adjustments before President Obama left office. 

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Once President Trump took office, however, Fiat Chrysler, VW, Ford, Toyota, GM, Nissan, Honda, and Hyundai asked for a re-evaluation of the efficiency guidelines. Trump ordered the EPA to review the standards for fuel efficiency, and Pruitt is clearly onside, calling the standards “costly for automakers and the American people.”

The states all dispute these characterizations, as well several unusual procedural issues the Trump administration and Pruitt have cited: “Although EPA is often faulted for missing deadlines, we are unfamiliar with any occasion on which the EPA Administrator has criticized his own agency for fulfilling its regulatory obligations ahead of schedule,” reads the letter. “[T]here are at least three separate reports by scientists, engineers, and other experts analyzing the standards and concluding that they are feasible. The record is clear that appropriate technology exists now for automakers to achieve the current standards for model years 2022-25 at a reasonable cost.”

Managing Climate Change

Efforts to create vehicles that use renewable energy and run clean are just one important aspect of managing climate change — an area that states as well as municipalities and private companies have taken the lead in as the federal government effectively abdicates its leadership role. Some of the largest states in the U.S., along with several major cities, have formed the United States Climate Alliance with the intent of adhering to the Paris Accord despite President Trump's removal of the U.S. from it. Various American cities, including Burlington, Vermont, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City have all stepped up to the plate in recent weeks wth plans to continue to their fight against climate change.This latest move by state attorneys general to defend against the EPA's backsliding is another major boost for fighting climate change at the state and local level, as these officials are recognizing the importance of their role. “Any effort to roll back these affordable, achievable, and common-sense vehicle emission standards would be both irrational and irresponsible,” attorney general Eric Schneiderman of New York wrote in the letter. “We stand ready to vigorously and aggressively challenge President Trump’s dangerous anti-environmental agenda in court – as we already have successfully done.”

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