A coalition of nine environmental groups filed suit Friday against the Trump administration for stripping California of its power to set vehicle emissions standards tougher than the federal government’s.
The suit follows one filed by California and 23 other states contesting President Trump’s decision to revoke the Clean Air Act waiver California has relied on for 50 years to set more stringent standards.
“Congress has consistently recognized the validity of state emissions standards, and we are confident that the court will act as a necessary check on the administration and overturn this unlawful action,” said Mike Landis, an attorney for Environment America, one of the groups suing over the decision.
Trump announced the decision by tweet last week, arguing one uniform standard would be “far safer and much less expensive” and lead to more car production.
The suit, along with California’s case, could prove important in staking out states’ rights.
California was first granted the right to submit environmental waivers for review in 1968 under the Clean Air Act. For decades, the largest state in the nation has been issued waivers allowing it to set air pollution standards higher than that of the federal government due to the state’s unique struggle with air pollution and smog. Thirteen other states choose to use California’s higher standards.
The battle over emissions standards has led to a lengthy and complex tit for tat between the Golden State and the Trump administration. After negotiations between the two parties failed, California forged a deal with automakers committing them to producing more fuel efficient vehicles. That spurred a probe from the Justice Department.
Trump’s revocation of California’s waiver was followed by a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency threatening to withhold highway funds if the state doesn’t work to meet certain air pollution standards.
California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols has said the state’s air pollution is one of the reasons it needs stricter standards beyond what the Trump administration has proposed.
“The standards that we are now in the process of enforcing are necessary to protect the public health and welfare, not just because we care about the future of the planet or polar bears, it’s because we actually need these extra clean cars in order to meet the health standards that are set by the federal government that we violate now on a very regular basis throughout Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley,” she said.