A legal battle over the Trump administration's new fuel efficiency standards has begun, with 23 states and the District of Columbia filing a lawsuit last week challenging the administration's decision to weaken yearly benchmarks.
The new rules require 1.5 percent annual increases in vehicle fuel efficiency through 2026. Under President Barack Obama, emissions standards would have tightened by 5 percent each year. The final rule takes effect June 29 and requires the U.S. vehicle fleet to average 40.4 mpg by the 2026 model year.
In the lawsuit, the multistate coalition argues the final rules unlawfully violate the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The California Air Resources Board—represented in the lawsuit by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra—said the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also sidestepped congressional requirements in passing the rules and "used a faulty and flawed analysis, unfounded assumptions and made statistical errors to manipulate data in support of their conclusions."
"The federal agencies used questionable science, faulty logic and ludicrous assumptions to justify what they wanted from the start: to gut and rewrite the single most important air regulation of the past decade," Mary Nichols, chairman of CARB, said in a statement. "Despite all the hype, this rule is a loss for America, as evidenced by their own analysis."
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and New York City also are represented in the lawsuit along with Michigan, home of the Detroit 3, and the other states.
The EPA and NHTSA said they do not comment on pending litigation, but defended the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule, in statements emailed to Automotive News.
"As finalized, SAFE provides a sensible, single national program that strikes the right regulatory balance, protects our environment and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry," an EPA spokesperson said.
NHTSA said it considered "hundreds of thousands of public comments and incorporated extensive scientific and economic analyses from experts at both agencies."
The agencies said the final standards will reduce technology and regulatory costs by billions through the 2029 model year, lower new-vehicle price tags for consumers and lead to fewer injuries and crash fatalities. The agencies project the rules also will increase U.S. oil production and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, as of May 29, had not reviewed the lawsuit.
On May 22, the auto maker trade group sided with the Trump administration and filed a motion to intervene in federal litigation, arguing that the fuel economy standards should be further weakened or remain flat.
Five auto makers—American Honda Motor Co., BMW of North America, Ford Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz USA and Volkswagen Group of America—are not participating in the action because they reached separate agreements with California on fuel economy standards.