Attorney General James Fights to Protect Clean Air

Joins Multistate Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s
Reckless Rollback of National Clean Car Standards

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General James today took action to fight against the Trump Administration's significant weakening of federal vehicle fuel efficiency and pollution emission standards. In a multistate lawsuit filed in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the coalition challenges the Trump Administration’s reckless Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE), which significantly rolls back the national Clean Car Standards for vehicle model years 2021-2025. The suit argues that the standards rollback will stop in its tracks the hard-fought for progress in saving consumers at the pump and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, hurting the economy and public health at a time when the country can least afford it.

“Clean Car Standards have been proven to reduce emissions, saving money and saving lives,” said Attorney General James. “Yet again, the Trump administration is proposing a rule that would reverse this progress and cause irreparable damage to our environment from climate change. I will continue to fight to ensure the Trump administration does not get away with undermining our progress in protecting clean water and air and in our battle against climate change.”

The previous standards, which were adopted in 2010, required reasonable and achievable improvements in fuel economy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. Since the standards took effect in 2012, they have saved consumers money, reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and helped protect the health of our communities.

Despite this progress, on March 31, 2020, the Trump Administration announced its final rule rolling back the Clean Car Standards. The rule takes aim at both the federal greenhouse gas emission standards and corporate average fuel economy standards, requiring automakers to make only minimal improvements to fuel economy — on the order of 1.5 percent annually instead of the previously mandated annual increases of approximately 5 percent. The rule will result in hundreds of millions of metric tons of avoidable carbon emissions into our atmosphere over the next decades.

In the lawsuit, the coalition argue that the final rule unlawfully violates the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.  

 More specifically, they assert that it is unlawful because, among other things:

  • The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rollbacks violate fundamental statutory requirements to reduce air pollution and increase fuel efficiency; and
  • EPA and NHTSA improperly and unlawfully relied on an analysis riddled with errors, omissions, and unfounded assumptions in an attempt to justify their desired result.

“The EPA is working under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic to roll back critical reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Instead of being guided by science during a respiratory public health crisis, the federal government is proposing to increase air pollution, jeopardize more lives, and drive up costs at the pump. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation strongly supports Attorney General Tish James in this litigation today. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in California and other states to stop this rollback.”

Attorney General James joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The California Air Resources Board; the Cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Denver; and the Counties of San Francisco and Denver also joined the coalition in filing the lawsuit. 

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Gavin McCabe and Austin Thompson, Affirmative Section Chief Yueh-Ru Chu, and Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.