Michigan joins California in suing EPA over bid to revoke emissions waiver

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — California and 22 other states, including Michigan, are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the Trump administration's effort to revoke California's right to set its own car emission standards under the Clean Air Act. 

The lawsuit, filed in D.C. Circuit Court and announced Friday by California Attorney Xavier Becerra, is the latest salvo in a burgeoning battle between the Golden State and the Trump administration that has left the rules governing air pollution for the nation's automakers in limbo. 

Becerra, a former Congressman, said in a statement the lawsuit "is part of the state’s ongoing fight to protect California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: California will not back down when it comes to protecting our people, our health and our environment from preventable pollution,” the Democrat said. “California’s Clean Car Standards are achievable. They not only work, many other states around the country have chosen to adopt them. The Trump Administration, on the other hand, has chosen to side with polluters. We believe we’re on the right side of history.” 

The lawsuit was filed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York.

The EPA declined to comment, citing an agency policy that prohibits speaking about pending litigation. 

The agency announced plans in September to revoke aspects of a Clean Air Act waiver that has been used for years by California to set its own emission standards, touching off a new front in a battle over mileage rules that has been waged by Washington and California since the earliest days of Trump's presidency. 

California and 22 other states, including Michigan, are suing the EPA over the Trump administration's effort to revoke California's right to set its own car emission standards.

The Trump administration announced last year its intention to ease stringent gas-mileage rules that would have required fleets averaging nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration proposed a freeze in the mandate after 2020, touching off a fierce battle with California, which helped craft the Obama-era rules, although it appears to be backing off that stance slightly with a new proposal to increase mileage requirements by 1.5% each year. 

The two sides attempted to negotiate a potential agreement, but the White House announced in February it was pulling out of the talks and moving forward with its proposed freeze. 

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have adopted California’s mileage rules, meaning automakers could be left with one set of rules for a quarter of the country and another set for the remaining states unless the Trump administration and California can come to an agreement. Congress gave California the right to set its own standards under the Clear Air Act. 

California has attempted to fight the Trump administration's attempt to roll back mileage rules and revoke its right to set its own mileage rules with policies and in court. The state  in July reached an agreement with Ford Motor Co. to voluntarily increase the average fuel economy its fleet from 2021 levels by 3.7% per year, reaching an average of nearly 50 mpg by 2026. Volkswagen, Honda and BMW were also part of that agreement.

General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Toyota Motor Corp. sided in October with the Trump administration. Together with the Association of Global Automakers, which lobbies for foreign-owned carmakers in Washington, they intervened in a lawsuit between California and the federal government to argue in favor of the Trump administration's position that Washington should create one set of gas mileage rules for all the nation's cars. 


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing