An aerial view of a parking lot.

Clean Car Standards

State attor­neys gen­er­al have tak­en numer­ous actions to reduce harm­ful, cli­mate change-caus­ing green­house gas emis­sions and oth­er pol­lu­tants from the trans­porta­tion sec­tor. Under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA), the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion (NHT­SA), the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board and car man­u­fac­tur­ers worked togeth­er to estab­lish nation­al Clean Car Stan­dards that would lim­it green­house gas emis­sions by grad­u­al­ly rais­ing fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for new pas­sen­ger vehi­cles and light trucks.

2017-2021

A mul­ti-state coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al have vig­or­ous­ly opposed the steps the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has tak­en to roll back the Clean Car Stan­dards. First, the attor­neys gen­er­al were part of a coali­tion of local lead­ers that released a dec­la­ra­tion vow­ing to chal­lenge the EPA’s deter­mi­na­tion that the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards should be rolled back, a com­mit­ment the attor­neys gen­er­al ful­filled by fil­ing a peti­tion for review in the D.C. Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the determination.

Next the attor­neys gen­er­al opposed the so-called Safer Afford­able Fuel Effi­cient Vehi­cles rule (also referred to by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as the Safe Vehi­cles” rule), which only requires min­i­mal improve­ments in fuel effi­cien­cy through mod­el year 2026 vehi­cles. Attor­neys gen­er­al filed com­ments in oppo­si­tion to the rule as it was pro­posed and are now chal­leng­ing the law­ful­ness of the final rule in court.

As part of its plan to roll back the Oba­ma-era Clean Car Stan­dards, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion revoked California’s Clean Air Act waiv­er to set its own vehi­cle emis­sions stan­dards. This was unprece­dent­ed: it is the only time in the EPA’s his­to­ry that it has revoked a waiv­er pre­vi­ous­ly grant­ed to the state. Fur­ther, the rule pre­vents the Sec­tion 177 States” that have pre­vi­ous­ly adopt­ed the Cal­i­for­nia stan­dard from con­tin­u­ing to employ the Cal­i­for­nia stan­dard in their states. Thir­teen states, with a 14th state in Neva­da and 15th state in Min­neso­ta set to join the oth­ers, have all adopt­ed California’s emis­sions stan­dards as Sec­tion 177 States, rep­re­sent­ing over one-third of the Unit­ed States pop­u­la­tion and approx­i­mate­ly one-third of all reg­is­tered vehi­cles in the Unit­ed States.

The attor­neys gen­er­al ini­tial­ly opposed the revo­ca­tion of California’s waiv­er in their com­ments oppos­ing the Safer Afford­able Fuel Effi­cient Vehi­cles pro­posed rule as the revo­ca­tion had been includ­ed in the pro­pos­al. Once the revo­ca­tion was made into its own sep­a­rate rule, the attor­neys gen­er­al again went to court to chal­lenge the final ver­sion of the revo­ca­tion. This lit­i­ga­tion is ongoing.

In addi­tion to their oppo­si­tion to the roll­back of nation­al Clean Car Stan­dards, state attor­neys gen­er­al suc­cess­ful­ly took the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to court to force the admin­is­tra­tion to enforce a pre­vi­ous­ly final­ized rule increas­ing penal­ties on automak­ers that failed to meet nation­al Cor­po­rate Aver­age Fuel Econ­o­my (CAFE) standards.

Oppos­ing the Roll­back of Nation­al Clean Car Standards

Air emis­sions from cars and trucks are a sig­nif­i­cant source of pol­lu­tants, includ­ing smog ingre­di­ents and car­bon pol­lu­tion. In Octo­ber 2012, the EPA and the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DOT) con­clud­ed a joint rule­mak­ing, in coop­er­a­tion with the auto­mo­bile indus­try, that har­mo­nized green­house gas emis­sions and fuel econ­o­my stan­dards. Under the rule, automak­ers agreed to pro­gres­sive­ly raise the fuel econ­o­my of their cars to an aver­age of 54.5 miles per gal­lon by 2025, near­ly dou­ble the aver­age in 2012. The high­er mileage require­ments are pro­ject­ed to elim­i­nate as much as six bil­lion met­ric tons of green­house gas­es and save con­sumers more than $1 tril­lion at the pump over the life­time of the cars affected.

2017-2021

Opposing a Flawed Mid-Course Review

  • Jan­u­ary 2017

    In Jan­u­ary 2017, the EPA com­plet­ed a mid-course review and con­firmed the fea­si­bil­i­ty of stay­ing on track and meet­ing the high­er mileage require­ments. Cal­i­for­nia, which has spe­cial sta­tus under the Clean Air Act to receive waivers to impose more strin­gent stan­dards, also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the mid-course review and endorsed the EPA’s conclusions. 

  • March 2017

    In March 2017, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion announced its inten­tion to reopen the review and poten­tial­ly revise down­ward the mileage stan­dards that the auto­mo­bile indus­try has already com­mit­ted to achieve through 2025

  • June 2017

    In June 2017, a coali­tion of state attor­neys gen­er­al trans­mit­ted a let­ter to the EPA threat­en­ing legal action if the EPA attempts to weak­en air pol­lu­tion stan­dards set for pas­sen­ger cars and light-duty trucks for mod­el years 2022 – 2025.

  • April 2018

    In April 2018, the EPA pro­vid­ed notice that, in its view, the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for cars for mod­el years 2022 – 2025 pre­vi­ous­ly agreed to are no longer appro­pri­ate due to alleged­ly changed cir­cum­stances. Sub­se­quent­ly, the EPA and the DOT promised to ini­ti­ate a rule­mak­ing process to revise the stan­dards down­ward. The day after EPA’s deter­mi­na­tion, 12 attor­neys gen­er­al were joined by may­ors nation­wide in releas­ing a dec­la­ra­tion vow­ing to chal­lenge the EPA’s deter­mi­na­tion that the mileage stan­dards should be rolled back. Sep­a­rate­ly, the attor­neys gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia, Rhode Island and Ver­mont announced com­mit­ments to fight the roll­back of vehi­cle effi­cien­cy standards.

  • May 2018

    Act­ing on the dec­la­ra­tion, a coali­tion of 18 attor­neys gen­er­al filed a peti­tion for review of the EPA’s deter­mi­na­tion in May 2018 with the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. The law­suit, led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra, is based on the EPA’s arbi­trary and capri­cious deci­sion to begin weak­en­ing the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for mod­el years 2022 – 2025 in vio­la­tion of its respon­si­bil­i­ty under the Clean Air Act.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    In Feb­ru­ary 2019, the coali­tion of 18 attor­neys gen­er­al filed their ini­tial brief with the D.C. Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the EPA’s April 2018 deter­mi­na­tion that the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for mod­el years 2022 – 2025 are no longer appro­pri­ate. The states not­ed that EPA made its deter­mi­na­tion with­out pro­vid­ing the pub­lic the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­ment on the new” evi­dence that the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards were not fea­si­ble. Addi­tion­al­ly, EPA ignored evi­dence that the emis­sion stan­dards could be achieved at a low­er cost than pre­vi­ous­ly expect­ed. The attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the D.C. Cir­cuit reverse the April 2018 deter­mi­na­tion, which served as the basis for EPA and DOT’s August 2018 pro­pos­al to freeze fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards at 2020 levels.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    That same month, Col­orado Attor­ney Gen­er­al Phil Weis­er filed an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the coali­tion of 18 attor­neys gen­er­al chal­leng­ing the April 2018 deter­mi­na­tion that the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards should be reopened. The ami­cus not­ed that EPA has improp­er­ly with­held the tech­ni­cal analy­sis that served as the basis for the April 2018 deter­mi­na­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is not, despite EPA’s claims to the con­trary, a sig­nif­i­cant record sup­port­ing the deter­mi­na­tion as evi­denced by the largest vehi­cle manufacturer’s sup­port for main­tain­ing the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards through 2025.

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, after the EPA had filed its ini­tial mer­its brief the pre­vi­ous month, the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al filed their reply brief. The reply brief not­ed that EPA’s ini­tial brief had not dis­put­ed the core com­po­nent of the states’ legal argu­ment — that the agency unlaw­ful­ly ignored the sub­stan­tial admin­is­tra­tive record it had devel­oped in the Jan­u­ary 2017 mid-term review in cer­ti­fy­ing that the clean car stan­dards are achiev­able. In par­tic­u­lar, the attor­neys gen­er­al point­ed out that EPA had mis­rep­re­sent­ed data on vehi­cle elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and failed to con­sid­er or acknowl­edge its pri­or analy­sis on afford­abil­i­ty and fuel prices.

  • Octo­ber 2019

    In Octo­ber 2019, the D.C. Cir­cuit ruled that the April 2018 deter­mi­na­tion is not a final agency action and thus the court could not hear the chal­lenge to the deter­mi­na­tion. The court empha­sized, how­ev­er, that the EPA will be required to pro­vide a rea­soned expla­na­tion for and can­not ignore pri­or fac­tu­al find­ings in its effort to weak­en the exist­ing fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for vehicles.

Opposing the Freeze/Rollback of Fuel Efficiency Standards

  • August 2018

    Ini­ti­at­ing its rule­mak­ing process, in August 2018, the EPA and the DOT released a pro­posed rule to freeze fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards at 2020 lev­els, instead of main­tain­ing annu­al increas­es in fuel effi­cien­cy through 2026. The pro­pos­al also would rescind California’s waiv­er to set its own stan­dards for reg­u­lat­ing green­house gas emis­sions from vehicles.

  • August 2018

    On the same day the pro­pos­al was released, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra expressed the state’s will­ing­ness to use every legal tool at its dis­pos­al to chal­lenge the pro­pos­al. Addi­tion­al­ly, Mass­a­chu­setts Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mau­ra Healey led a coali­tion of 20 attor­neys gen­er­al in releas­ing a state­ment announc­ing their inten­tion to chal­lenge the pro­posed rule that will sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase car­bon pol­lu­tion, reduce air qual­i­ty and cost dri­vers mon­ey on gas. The coali­tion includ­ed every attor­ney gen­er­al from the juris­dic­tions that have adopt­ed California’s more strin­gent fuel effi­cien­cy standards.

  • August 2018

    Lat­er in August 2018, a coali­tion of 18 attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the EPA and the DOT extend the com­ment dead­line on the pro­pos­al from six­ty to 120 days and hold addi­tion­al pub­lic hear­ings for the pro­pos­al. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that a 120-day com­ment peri­od would be con­sis­tent with past prac­tices for sim­i­lar­ly impor­tant and com­plex pro­posed reg­u­la­tions and that an addi­tion­al hear­ing in Cal­i­for­nia specif­i­cal­ly devot­ed to the EPA’s unprece­dent­ed pro­pos­al to with­draw California’s Clean Air Act waiv­er would be appro­pri­ate. In response, the EPA only pro­vid­ed the pub­lic three addi­tion­al days to sub­mit com­ments and denied the request for an addi­tion­al hear­ing in California.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2018

    In Sep­tem­ber 2018, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra tes­ti­fied at the pub­lic hear­ing in Fres­no, Cal­i­for­nia on the pro­posed revi­sion of fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra opposed the pro­posed roll­back of the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards because the pro­posed rule vio­lates fed­er­al law as the stan­dards are far below the max­i­mum fea­si­ble lev­el” based on tech­nol­o­gy avail­able today and avail­able between 2021 and 2026. Addi­tion­al­ly, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra not­ed that the EPA and the DOT have failed to offer sound rea­sons for rolling back the fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards. The tes­ti­mo­ny also expressed oppo­si­tion to attempts to revoke California’s waiv­er under the Clean Air Act.

  • Octo­ber 2018

    In Octo­ber 2018, a coali­tion of 21 attor­neys gen­er­al filed com­ments request­ing that the EPA and the DOT with­draw the pro­posed fuel effi­cien­cy rule. The com­ments not­ed that freez­ing fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards at 2020 lev­els vio­lates the agen­cies’ respon­si­bil­i­ties under the Clean Air Act to pro­tect the pub­lic from air pol­lu­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, the pro­pos­al vio­lates the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act as the EPA and the DOT have ignored sub­stan­tial evi­dence at their dis­pos­al that runs counter to their roll­back objec­tive and have failed to pro­vide jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for revers­ing course on fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards. Cal­i­for­nia 12 expert reports in sup­port of its comments.

  • Decem­ber 2018

    In Decem­ber 2018, a coali­tion of twen­ty attor­neys gen­er­al sent a let­ter to EPA Admin­is­tra­tor Wheel­er, request­ing that EPA with­draw the pro­posed fuel effi­cien­cy rule in light of the Fourth Nation­al Cli­mate Assess­ment. The Nation­al Cli­mate Assess­ment, released in Novem­ber 2018 makes clear that action is need­ed now to reduce cli­mate change-caus­ing green­house gas emis­sions in order to avoid the worst effects of cli­mate change. At a min­i­mum, the let­ter urged EPA to reopen the com­ment peri­od for the fuel effi­cien­cy rule to allow for pub­lic input on and ade­quate con­sid­er­a­tion of the Assessment’s find­ings. Ten days lat­er the coali­tion sub­mit­ted a copy of the Nation­al Cli­mate Assess­ment to the rule­mak­ing record for the pro­posed fuel effi­cien­cy rule and high­light­ed parts of the Assess­ment that sup­port the coalition’s sub­mit­ted com­ments on the pro­posed rule.

  • June 2019

    In June 2019, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James led a coali­tion of ten attor­neys gen­er­al in send­ing a let­ter thank­ing the Chair and Rank­ing Mem­ber of the House Ener­gy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee for hold­ing a hear­ing on EPA’s and DOT’s pro­pos­al. The let­ter encour­aged Con­gress to exer­cise its over­sight author­i­ty over fed­er­al agen­cies, such as the EPA and DOT that have flout­ed Congress’s com­mands in the Clean Air Act and the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy and Con­ser­va­tion Act to reduce air pol­lu­tion and improve fuel econ­o­my. The attor­neys gen­er­al con­clud­ed by not­ing that if the EPA and DOT final­ize their pro­pos­al, the attor­neys gen­er­al stand ready to file suit to over­turn the final rule and expect to pre­vail, but empha­sized that they would pre­fer to be coop­er­a­tive­ly work­ing with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to craft solu­tions to the cli­mate change challenge.

  • July 2019

    The fol­low­ing month, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of twelve attor­neys gen­er­al in sub­mit­ting sup­ple­men­tal com­ments with the EPA and DOT on the pro­posed fuel effi­cien­cy rule. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the EPA and DOT vio­lat­ed an exec­u­tive order in devel­op­ing the pro­posed rule by fail­ing to con­sult with state offi­cials about the pro­pos­al that would pre­empt state poli­cies in attempt­ing to rescind California’s waiv­er to set its own fuel effi­cien­cy rules and the right of oth­er states to adopt California’s stan­dards. The com­ments indi­cat­ed that doc­u­ments that the EPA and DOT recent­ly pro­vid­ed to New York in response to a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request could not sub­stan­ti­ate EPA’s and DOT’s claim in the pro­posed rule to have sat­is­fied the require­ment to con­sult with states. Con­se­quent­ly, the states asked the EPA and DOT to with­draw the pro­posed fuel effi­cien­cy rule and com­ply with the require­ment to con­sult with states.

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, the EPA and DOT, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly issued a final rule to with­draw California’s waiv­er to set its own vehi­cle emis­sions stan­dards (below), issued its final ver­sion of the so-called Safer Afford­able Fuel-Effi­cient Vehi­cles rule. The final rule estab­lish­es green­house gas and fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards for vehi­cles for mod­el years 2021 through 2026, requir­ing annu­al fuel effi­cien­cy improve­ments of 1.5 per­cent. The 1.5 per­cent improve­ment tar­get is far below the five per­cent annu­al improve­ment pre­vi­ous­ly required by the Clean Car Stan­dards. The new stan­dard is expect­ed to gen­er­ate an addi­tion­al 1.5 bil­lion met­ric tons of car­bon emis­sions by 2040.

  • March 2020

    Imme­di­ate­ly after the final rule was released, attor­neys gen­er­al announced com­mit­ments to chal­lenge the final Safer Afford­able Fuel-Effi­cient Vehi­cles rule. The attor­neys gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Illi­nois, Mary­land, Mass­a­chu­setts, New York and Vir­ginia released state­ments opposed to the final rule.

  • May 2020

    In May 2020, a coali­tion of 24 attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra filed a peti­tion for review in the D.C. Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the administration’s final rule. After the change in admin­is­tra­tion, the Biden admin­is­tra­tion asked the court to place the law­suit into abeyance, where it remains as of June 2021.

Opposing Withdrawal of California Waiver

  • Sep­tem­ber 2019

    In Sep­tem­ber 2019, the EPA and the DOT issued a final rule to with­draw California’s waiv­er to set its own vehi­cle emis­sions stan­dards (above). The EPA and the DOT, ignor­ing the explic­it author­i­ty in the Clean Air Act for Cal­i­for­nia to set its own stan­dards, claimed that the state’s vehi­cle stan­dards are pre­empt­ed under the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy and Con­ser­va­tion Act and the Clean Air Act. The agen­cies sep­a­rat­ed out the waiv­er rule from the fuel effi­cien­cy roll­back; they indi­cat­ed their inten­tion to final­ize the fuel effi­cien­cy rule in the com­ing months. In addi­tion to under­min­ing California’s clean car rule, revo­ca­tion of the Cal­i­for­nia waiv­er also impacts the state car rules of thir­teen oth­er states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, all of whom have vol­un­tar­i­ly adopt­ed California’s emis­sion stan­dards as their own stan­dards under Sec­tion 177 of the Clean Air Act.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2019

    With­in one week of its issuance, state attor­neys gen­er­al filed suit oppos­ing with­draw­al of California’s waiv­er. More specif­i­cal­ly, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of twen­ty-four attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a law­suit in fed­er­al dis­trict court in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia to pre­vent the waiv­er with­draw from going into effect. The law­suit notes that the asser­tion that California’s stan­dards are pre­empt­ed by the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy and Con­ser­va­tion Act and the Clean Air Act con­tra­venes the texts of those statutes and pri­or case law. It also is arbi­trary and capri­cious, in vio­la­tion of the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act.

  • Octo­ber 2019

    In Octo­ber 2019, DOT filed a motion to dis­miss the attor­neys general’s law­suit or to trans­fer the lit­i­ga­tion to the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. The motion con­tends that the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals has exclu­sive juris­dic­tion to hear the com­plaint from the attor­neys general.

  • Novem­ber 2019

    In response, in Novem­ber 2019, the state attor­neys gen­er­al filed a pro­tec­tive peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the with­draw­al of California’s waiv­er in the D.C. Cir­cuit, in case the D.C. fed­er­al dis­trict court deter­mines that it does not have juris­dic­tion to hear the Sep­tem­ber 2019 law­suit from the attor­neys gen­er­al. The Novem­ber peti­tion for review pre­serves the abil­i­ty of the coali­tion of twen­ty-four attor­neys gen­er­al to chal­lenge the Sep­tem­ber 2019 final rule with­draw­ing the Cal­i­for­nia waiver.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al filed their open­ing brief in the D.C. Cir­cuit. The coali­tion not­ed that the EPA lacks author­i­ty under the Clean Air Act to with­draw California’s waiv­er and that the agency’s grounds for deny­ing the waiv­er based on its deter­mi­na­tion that the reg­u­lat­ed pol­lu­tion is a glob­al issue, rather than a local issue, is unlaw­ful. The attor­neys gen­er­al point­ed out that Cal­i­for­nia has demon­strat­ed a need for green­house gas and zero-emis­sion-vehi­cle stan­dards to address its long-stand­ing chal­lenges with local air qual­i­ty and the severe threats it faces from cli­mate change.

    In addi­tion, the coali­tion not­ed that the appeals court lacks juris­dic­tion to review DOT’s pre­emp­tion rule under the Clean Air Act and the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy Con­ser­va­tion Act and that the mat­ter should first be heard by the dis­trict court. If the appeals court were to con­clude that it has juris­dic­tion, the court should vacate the pre­emp­tion rule because it exceeds DOT’s authority.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2020

    In Sep­tem­ber 2020, the EPA and DOT filed their open­ing brief in the D.C. Cir­cuit lit­i­ga­tion. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment claimed that the EPA and DOT right­ly with­drew California’s waiv­er as California’s vehi­cle emis­sion stan­dards do not mean­ing­ful­ly reduce the over­all U.S. con­tri­bu­tion of green­house gas emis­sions to glob­al emis­sions. The brief also assert­ed the D.C. Cir­cuit could prop­er­ly hear the case.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al filed their final reply brief with the D.C. Cir­cuit. The brief not­ed that the EPA’s waiv­er with­draw­al is unlaw­ful under the Clean Air Act as EPA iden­ti­fied no author­i­ty under the statute for its action and that EPA’s glob­al issue deter­mi­na­tion is also not sup­port­ed by the statute. The attor­neys gen­er­al reit­er­at­ed that should the D.C. Cir­cuit find that it has juris­dic­tion to review DOT’s pre­emp­tion rule, the court should vacate the pre­emp­tion rule issued under the Clean Air Act and the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy Con­ser­va­tion Act. After the change in admin­is­tra­tions, the law­suit was placed into abeyance where it remains as of June 2021.

Freedom of Information Act Request

  • Sep­tem­ber 2018

    Fol­low­ing the August 2018 release of the pro­posed rule to freeze fuel effi­cien­cy stan­dards at 2020 lev­els, the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB) filed a FOIA request with EPA and DOT in Sep­tem­ber 2018. CARB request­ed that EPA and DOT release doc­u­ments that the agen­cies relied on in jus­ti­fy­ing the August 2018 pro­posed rule because this crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion was not dis­closed and con­tra­dicts pre­vi­ous analy­ses con­duct­ed by the agen­cies, threat­en­ing pub­lic health.

  • April 2019

    In April 2019, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra filed a suit in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia fed­er­al dis­trict court to com­pel EPA and DOT to make avail­able the request­ed infor­ma­tion. The law­suit not­ed that EPA had vio­lat­ed FOIA in fail­ing to make time­ly deter­mi­na­tions on the request and that DOT had vio­lat­ed FOIA in pro­vid­ing inad­e­quate jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for with­hold­ing the request­ed documents.

  • June 2020

    The fed­er­al dis­trict court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia released a mem­o­ran­dum opin­ion in June 2020 hold­ing that the EPA and DOT con­duct­ed a sat­is­fac­to­ry search in response to the FOIA request and that the with­held infor­ma­tion was pro­tect­ed under the delib­er­a­tive process privilege.

Defend­ing Fine Increas­es for Non-Com­ply­ing Automakers

2017-2021

  • 2015

    In 2015, Con­gress required the EPA to update its sched­ule of fines for Cor­po­rate Aver­age Fuel Econ­o­my violations. 

  • July 2016

    In response, the EPA issued an inter­im final rule in July 2016 that adjust­ed the penal­ties imposed on automak­ers for non-com­pli­ance with CAFE requirements.

  • July 2017

    In July 2017, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, act­ing through the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion with­in the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, announced an indef­i­nite delay of the adjust­ed penal­ties required by the final rule. 

  • Sep­tem­ber 2017

    In Sep­tem­ber 2017, five state attor­neys gen­er­al sued the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit Court of Appeals for delay­ing the impo­si­tion of the new CAFE penal­ties, not­ing that the DOT’s action vio­lat­ed both the Admin­is­tra­tive Pro­ce­dure Act and Con­gress’s direc­tive that agen­cies increase CAFE penalties.

  • April 2018

    The Sec­ond Cir­cuit in April 2018 vacat­ed the Trump administration’s delay of the impo­si­tion of new penal­ties. In June 2018, the Sec­ond Cir­cuit pan­el released its opin­ion explain­ing its April 2018 order. The opin­ion fault­ed the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion for lack­ing the statu­to­ry author­i­ty to indef­i­nite­ly delay the effec­tive date of the rule and delay­ing the rule with­out going through the notice-and-com­ment rule­mak­ing process.

  • April 2018

    In April 2018, the NHT­SA issued a notice of pro­posed rule­mak­ing to reverse the adjust­ed penal­ties imposed on automak­ers for non-com­pli­ance with CAFE requirements. 

  • May 2018

    Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra and New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Schnei­der­man led a coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing com­ments opposed to the NHTSA’s pro­posed rule­mak­ing. The com­ments, filed in May 2018, not­ed that if the penal­ty for fail­ing to com­ply with CAFE require­ments is not suf­fi­cient­ly high, automak­ers will not be incen­tivized to pro­duce fuel-effi­cient vehicles.

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, the NHT­SA released its final rule. The final rule dras­ti­cal­ly cut fines to near­ly a third of what was required by Con­gress in 2015 for automak­ers that fail to com­ply with CAFE standards. 

  • August 2019

    With­in a week of the final rule being released, in August 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra and New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James led a coali­tion of 13 states in suing to reverse the July 2019 final rule.

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the Sec­ond Cir­cuit sided with the attor­neys gen­er­al in again vacat­ing the NHTSA’s lat­est attempt to insu­late automak­ers from fine increas­es for non-com­pli­ance with CAFE require­ments. The court held that the CAFE fine, despite the NHTSA’s argu­ments to the con­trary, is a civ­il mon­e­tary penal­ty” prop­er­ly sub­ject to the 2015 fine sched­ule statu­to­ry update and found untime­ly, and thus unau­tho­rized, the NHTSA’s asser­tion that the fine increase was unwar­rant­ed as a mat­ter of eco­nom­ic policy.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, NHT­SA pub­lished an inter­im final rule to again delay rein­stat­ing the fine increase on automak­ers for non-com­pli­ance with CAFE require­ments. The rule­mak­ing stat­ed that the fine increase will go into effect begin­ning in mod­el year 2022. The inter­im final rule request­ed com­ments on whether it should apply the fine increase in mod­el year 2023.