Trump vs. States in Clean Air Showdown


Last week, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein joined 22 other states’ chief consumer protectors in fighting the Trump Administration’s illegal attack on states’ authority to require tougher auto pollution restrictions.

The strong coalition of state attorneys general acted swiftly to challenge President Trump’s announcement that his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would revoke California’s authority to require that new cars meet tougher air emissions restrictions than the EPA requires. The Obama EPA had authorized California to set higher fuel economy standards designed to reduce emissions of the climate-change-inducing gas carbon dioxide.

Under the Clean Air Act, California has special authority to adopt stronger emissions standards on vehicles, tracing back to that state’s extreme smog problem of the 1970s, which was largely associated with cars. Other states also have the option of adopting the stronger standards, and 13 states have done so with their fuel economy standards. Yet more states, including North Carolina, have adopted California’s tougher restrictions on other pollutants.

Environmental and public health advocates immediately condemned the EPA action as a threat to climate stability and human health, and unsupported by science. Most automakers were moving forward with plans to meet the stronger California standards for cars sold across the country, and many opposed Trump’s move as unnecessary and disruptive to their business.

“Our office joined this lawsuit to support states’ authority to fight climate change and protect public health,” said Stein spokesperson Laura Brewer.

In response to Trump’s announcement, national League of Conservation Voters’ (LCV) clean energy program director Sara Jordan said, “For four decades, states have had the right under the Clean Air Act to protect their residents from dangerous air pollution. The Trump Administration’s latest rollback is attacking a basic public health protection that has been successfully cleaning up the air we breathe since it was passed into law. This move flies in the face of public opinion, science, and logic – even the auto industry opposes it. LCV will continue to work with Governors, state legislators, and local elected officials to fight for clean air and move our country to a clean energy economy.”

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) clean vehicles and fuels director Luke Tonachel said, “State leaders need the ability to protect their citizens from dangerous air pollution and the ravages of our climate crisis. Only the mean-spirited Trump administration would think it makes sense to deny clean air to 118 million Americans in 14 states. Even the automakers have called on the president to work with the states on a negotiated outcome that continues to make progress on curtailing tailpipe pollution. The administration should drop this wrongheaded idea and work with state leaders, not against them.”

The fight for clean air will continue in federal court.

Up next, New Legislative Maps Head Back to Court >>

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