California, 22 other states sue Trump administration over fuel economy rules

California leads the lawsuit, which argues the Trump administration's SAFE rule violates numerous laws, such as the Clean Air Act.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the lawsuit will defend the Clean Car Act.

State of California Department of Justice

On Wednesday, California, along with 22 other states and the District of Columbia served the Trump administration a new lawsuit. The coalition, which California leads, directly challenges the Trump administration's latest Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule put into effect this past March.

SAFE replaces the Obama administration-era Clean Car Act, which put the US on a trajectory to increase new car fuel economy in big ways through 2026. Specifically, it required 5% fuel economy improvements across an automaker's fleet each year. The Trump administration did away with the regulation and installed SAFE, which calls for 1.5% increases annually, though it originally called for freezing fuel economy figures at 2020 levels.

To put the improvements in miles per gallon-speak, the Clean Car Act would have resulted in a corporate-wide average of 54 mpg. The Trump administration standards lower the improvement to 40.4 mpg.

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The states further argue the auto industry was on track to meet or exceed targets set with the Clean Car Act before the administration ordered a new review in 2018. The EPA had previously given a green light to keep the Obama-era regulation intact in 2017. Opponents, such as the Environmental Protection Network, have already slammed the ruling, citing evidence it will increase oil consumption and not work toward combating climate change.

"(SAFE) will increase costs to consumers and allow the emission of dangerous pollutants that directly threaten the health of our families," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said of the lawsuit. "President Trump should have listened to his own scientists. America's Clean Car Standards were doing the job. We're going to court to defend them."

In the new rule's announcement, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said SAFE doesn't create a ceiling, but instead makes a floor for automakers to meet. The administration also argued the rule would reduce the cost of new cars and help more families afford a newer, more efficient vehicle. In the regulation, there is no guarantee automakers will pass any savings onto car buyers.

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