WASHINGTON – California and 23 other states on Friday filed a lawsuit against the unprecedented legal repeal of the Trump administration to set its own rules on climate warming.
The lawsuit is a starting gun in a fast-paced legal battle for states' rights and climate change, which is likely to be resolved only after it reaches the Supreme Court. The decision could ultimately have wide-ranging implications for states' control over their own environmental laws, the volume of pollution produced by the United States, and the future of the nation's automotive industry.
"This is a lifelong battle for us," says Mary Nichols, California's top climate change officer . "I believe we will win."
The two top Trump administration officials who controlled the move proudly defended it at a press conference Thursday morning at the Environmental Protection Agency's Washington headquarters. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the removal of California's stringent pollution rule – which 13 other states also follow – "meets President Trump's commitment to establish uniform fuel economy standards for U.S. vehicles, that no country has the power to impose its policies on everyone else in our country. “
If the case goes to the Supreme Court while Mr Trump remains in office – the Democratic administration is unlikely to defend politics in court – administration officials say they are confident they will win. Legal experts say this opinion may be worthwhile.
"This is not an eco-friendly vessel," says Michael Gerrard, an environmental law expert at Columbia University.
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The Transportation Department and E.P.A. will jointly repeal a legal waiver granted to the California administration by the Obama administration under the Clean Air Act of 1970, allowing the state to set stricter state standards for greenhouse gas emissions from the back pipes of vehicles.
This move is the first of a planned one or two strikes designed by the Trump administration to unravel one of Mr. Obama's climate change policies: In the coming weeks, EPA and the Department of Transportation are also expected to return back to the national standard of the Obama era for tail pipe pollution, which is based on the standard in California.
California's plan to take the Trump administration to court on this issue further escalates antagonistic relations between Mr. Trump and the state on policy issues such as immigration, the environment, and health.
The feud also seems personal. Mr. Trump announced a plan to lift the greenhouse gas pollution waiver in California on Twitter Wednesday while in Los Angeles to attend the fund. That night, he told reporters aboard Air Force One that his administration would issue an environmental violation notice against the city of San Francisco because of what it described as homelessness.
California did not hesitate to respond. Counting the case filed Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Bessera has already filed 60 cases against the Trump administration. This led to 37 legal victories for the state – a combination of decisions in favor of California or preliminary orders that halted the Trump administration's actions until a final decision.
"The administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to combat air pollution and protect public health," Mr. Becerra said in a statement. "President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the presidency, and in particular the rule of law chapter."
Trump administration officials and their allies say they are confident in the legal case Repeal
Andrew Wheeler, EPA Administrator, made some of these arguments Thursday morning. Speaking in E.P.A. The exquisite room of Rachel Carson, named for the biologist who is credited with galvanizing the modern environmental movement, Mr. Wheeler presented a bilateral legal argument for abolishing pollution.
He noted that the Clean Air Act of 1970 was designed to set national standards for limiting vehicle emissions from pollution that harms human health, such as soot and smog. The Clean Air Act allowed California, due to its uniquely bad smog problems, to apply for waivers from the E.P.A. to set stricter state standards. California has received dozens of such denials over the years.
During the Obama administration, E.P.A. granted California a refusal to set stricter standards for a different type of pollutant: greenhouse gases.
Trump administration officials say that giving up greenhouse gases was misplaced because, although greenhouse gases cause heat trapping and warming the planet, they do not cause specific local or regional problems – yes say, asthma or lung disease – associated with traditional pollutants like soot and smog.
"California has unique problems with pollutants" such as soot or smog, causing local health problems, Mr. Wheeler said. "There is no point in using this authority to try to tackle a national or global problem such as greenhouse gas pollution." He added: "There is no close and direct connection to greenhouse gases. California cars have no closer relationship with climate change in California than cars in Japan or anywhere else. “
Mr. Wheeler also noted that in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, California seeks to set higher standards for fuel economy than cars compared to the rest of the country. Currently, the national fuel economy standard, which is designed to follow the California standard, requires automakers to create vehicles that achieve an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, reducing about 6 billion tons of pollution. with carbon dioxide that warms the planet throughout the life of these vehicles.
The Trump administration plans to return this standard to about 37 mpg. But with the waiver of California, California and other states that follow its standard, they could retain this stricter fuel economy requirement.
Mr. Wheeler noted, however, that under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, states were not allowed to set fuel economy standards, thus making the case that California's individual fuel economy standards were illegal. Under this law, the authority to set mileage standards is primarily the responsibility of the transportation department.
"The statute states that no state can have a state law or regulation regarding fuel economy," said Jeff Holmsted, who was the top E.P.A. an employee of the George W. Bush administration.
California and the other states maintain that the refusal to set pollutant standards for greenhouse tubes with harmful pipes is legally granted, within the powers conferred by Congress under the Clean Air Act and its repeal is illegal.
"It is very uncertain whether the EPA has the legal authority to withdraw a refusal. That's the first question, "said Mr. Gerrard, a professor at Columbia University.
The California lawsuit also argues that these exhaust pipe standards are required by the state to control emissions of other pollutants, such as soot and smog, at levels necessary to meet even federal standards. "We need extra clean cars to meet the standards set by the federal government," Ms. Nichols said. "If this prevails, millions of people in California will breathe dirty air. There will be more pollution, more asthma, more hospitalizations, more premature deaths. “
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