CLEAN TRANSPORTATION

ELPC and Allies Sue Trump Administration for Gutting Clean Car Standards

WASHINGTON (May 27, 2020) – Environmental advocates filed lawsuits today in federal court against the Trump administration for its illegal rollback of clean car and fuel economy standards. The administration’s rule is based on massive technical and economic errors – and fails to meet core legal requirements.

The vehicle-emission and fuel-economy standards issued under the Obama administration slashed climate-changing air pollution and cut America’s oil dependence while saving drivers $90 billion at the pump. It’s the single largest action the federal government has taken to address climate change.

The 12 groups (listed below) sued the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in separate lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The Trump administration’s rollback of Clean Car Standards would be wrong-headed and unlawful in the best of times, but is especially irresponsible now during a national public health emergency with the economy falling,” said Rob Michaels, senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The record is filled with overwhelming evidence that the 2012 standards were not only feasible for the auto industry, but they would have created more jobs and reduced dangerous air pollution, saving thousands of lives, compared to the weak new Trump standards. We look forward to challenging the Trump Administration’s reckless and short-sighted rollback in court.”

“These illegal rollbacks mean more air pollution that harms our health and fuels the climate crisis, while sucking billions of dollars more out of Americans’ pockets at the pump,” said Ben Longstreth, senior attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

“The Trump administration’s reckless reversal of the clean car standards is riddled with mathematical and logical errors, according to the administration’s own economists,” said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club’s Chief Climate Counsel. “This flawed rule will increase pollution, endanger public health, cut auto jobs, and further burden American families with higher fueling costs. The Sierra Club has fought for strong clean car standards for decades, and today’s filing is the latest in years of advocacy for climate action that protects people and the planet.”

“The Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Car Standards will hurt Americans, increase harmful pollution, cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, and cost consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump,” said EDF lead attorney Peter Zalzal. “The rollback is deeply and fundamentally flawed, it is inconsistent with the agencies’ legal duty to reduce harmful pollution and conserve fuel, and we look forward to vigorously challenging it in court.”

“When the Trump administration puts polluters before people, we take them to court and win. The clean cars standards were a straightforward, cost-effective way to reduce carbon pollution and combat the climate crisis. We’ll keep holding this administration accountable for these unlawful rollbacks,” said Paul Cort, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club in these cases.

“The agencies have abandoned their statutory responsibilities to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants and maximize fuel economy to pursue other priorities dictated by the administration’s deregulatory agenda,” said Scott Nelson, attorney for Public Citizen. “But even the rigged cost-benefit analysis that supposedly justifies their actions shows that the rollback of these standards will harm consumers and the environment without achieving any other benefits that could conceivably justify the agencies’ choice.”

“The administration’s final rule that rolls back vehicle standards isn’t just an effort to undo the most significant and successful climate policy on the books. It’s also an absolute travesty of a regulatory process,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In their rush to gut vehicle standards, these agencies abandoned their mission, ignored the evidence, sidelined experts, cut corners, and wound up with an indefensible new rule that will cost consumers $200 billion in extra gasoline costs and result in billions of tons of additional emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming.”

“COVID-19 has laid bare the tragic impact toxic emissions and air pollution can have on our health,” said Emily Green, senior attorney at CLF. “Rolling back rules designed to create cleaner air and reduce climate-damaging emissions defies reason – and the law. We must hold this administration accountable for its continued attacks on our health and our environment.”

“EPA’s own analysis shows that this will reverse climate progress. The clean car standards should protect our climate, our health and the future of our children and grandchildren,” said Morgan Folger, Clean Cars campaign director with Environment America. “This plan is unacceptable. Not only does it fail to adequately address the climate crisis — it sets us back years when we have no time to lose.”

“Clean cars are essential to a clean Chesapeake Bay,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Attorney Ariel Solaski. “Allowing dirtier vehicles on the road undermines efforts to restore the Bay and makes the watershed more vulnerable to climate change. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is committed to continuing the fight to save the Bay and the local rivers and streams that feed into it in court.”

Background

The 12 groups that joined together to file today’s lawsuits are: Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Public Citizen, Inc., Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists.

Since the clean car and fuel economy standards were issued in 2010, the auto industry has thrived, achieving record sales, while drivers saved $90 billion in fuel costs. But the rollback from the EPA and NHTSA, issued at the end of March, will cause at least 867 million metric tons more carbon dioxide pollution, equivalent to the annual emissions of 216 coal plants. And it will cost consumers at least $175 billion in additional fuel costs, according to the EPA’s own calculations.

Separately, the administration has tried to block California and other states from setting more ambitious emission standards. That unprecedented move has also been challenged in court.

Today’s petitions are here.

Wrong Time to Rollback Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards

Trump Administration’s Misguided Final Rollback of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards Occurring at Wrong Time for Our Country in Crisis

U.S. EPA rollback of sensible standards will cost jobs, increase pollution, cost people more at the gas pump, & reduce America’s technological innovation leadership & competitiveness

Chicago — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Final Rule rolling back the 2012 Clean Car Standards replaces a program that was working well to reduce pollution, save fuel costs, and modernize the automotive industry – for no good reason. The Trump Administration even acknowledges that its flawed rollback, expected to be released early next week, will result in job losses at the very time that unemployment is soaring.

“The Trump Administration’s misguided decision to undermine the sensible federal Clean Car Standards would be wrong-headed in the best of times, but this rollback is especially irresponsible now during a national public health emergency with the economy falling,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “ELPC intends to challenge the Trump Administration’s legally-flawed Clean Car Standards roll back in federal court.

“President Trump’s misguided weakened standards will cost Midwest jobs at the very time that unemployment is soaring, and people and our economy are suffering. The Trump administration’s own calculations found that its rollback would reduce automotive jobs.

“President Trump’s flawed rollback needlessly puts a cleaner environment and our children’s future in the backseat. This rollback is wrong on timing and wrong on the substance.

“Even after the current crisis passes, rolling back the Clean Car Standards will put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel-efficient cars. The U.S. EPA and DOT standards issued in 2012 were working to drive technological innovation, ensure that America’s new cars and trucks would use less oil, and emit less carbon pollution.”

ELPC Commends Michigan Governor Whitmer for Creating Office of Future Mobility

ELPC Commends Michigan Governor Whitmer for Creating Office of Future Mobility 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

“We commend Michigan Gov. Whitmer on her steps to advance clean transportation by creating an Office of Future Mobility and Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification. We expect this Council will build on Michigan’s historic transportation expertise in manufacturing and research, and more recent emphasis on electrification and planning for the necessary charging network.

“We urge the Council to advance ways of using renewable energy to charge EVs and autonomous vehicles. ELPC hopes the Council will continue Michigan’s steps to purchase more electric school buses and deploy electrified public transit beginning in 2021.”

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ELPC and Allies File Lawsuit in DC Circuit Court Challenging Environmental Protection Agency’s Attempts to Remove California’s Authority to Set Environmental Standards for Vehicles.

Contact: Judith Nemes, Jnemes@elpc.org

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) along with a coalition of NGOs today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule which attempts to remove California’s authority to set environmental standards for vehicles. EPA’s rule revokes California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emissions vehicle mandates that are stronger than federal standards. Because the U.S. EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also propose to weaken the federal vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, it’s important to protect California’s ability to set stricter emissions standards, which the Clean Air Act then allows other states to adopt.

Today’s action follows a lawsuit filed November 15 by a coalition of states and cities to oppose EPA’s action. That coalition includes Illinois and Minnesota. ELPC earlier filed a petition for review in the District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s action published in the same rule.

 

ELPC and Allies File Lawsuit to Protect States’ Rights to Reduce Emissions from Vehicles

Contact: Mary McClelland, MMcClelland@elpc.org, 312-795-3740

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) along with a coalition of NGOs today filed a lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule which attempts to remove California’s authority to set environmental standards for vehicles. NHTSA’s rule states that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which requires NHTSA to set vehicle fuel efficiency standards, preempts California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and zero-emissions vehicle mandates that are stronger than federal standards. Because NHTSA and U.S. EPA also propose to weaken the federal vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, it’s important to protect California’s ability to set stricter standards, which the Clean Air Act then allows other states to adopt.

Today’s action follows a lawsuit filed last Friday by a coalition of states and cities to oppose the Trump administration’s actions. That coalition includes Illinois and Minnesota.

Statement by Howard A. Learner, Executive Director ELPC

“The Trump administration’s attempt to revoke states’ authority to enact strong clean car standards is unsupported by law and a huge step backward as a matter of policy. That is why the Environmental Law & Policy Center is joining a coalition to challenge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “Climate change harms the Great Lakes and people in our region. ELPC is challenging the federal government’s misguided and wrongful action that prevents states in the Midwest and elsewhere from taking the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”

 

ELPC Commends Governor Walz’s Announcement on Clean Car Standards

Contact: Judith Nemes, 312-795-3706, jnemes@elpc.org

ELPC COMMENDS GOVERNOR WALZ’S ANNOUNCEMENT ON CLEAN CAR STANDARDS 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

CHICAGO – Governor Walz announced his intention that Minnesota adopt California’s Clean Car standards as permissible under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Car Standards will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes and increase consumer electric vehicle options.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends Governor Walz for stepping up with this climate change solution to accelerate modern, clean cars and advance jobs for the transportation future. Midwestern states should be leaders in moving toward cleaner cars and reducing greenhouse gas pollution from the transportation sector,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Climate change harms Minnesota, the Great Lakes and our region. The Trump administration’s misguided action last week undercuts California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to modernize vehicles. The Attorneys General of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin have joined California and other states to challenge this Trump administration attack on state leadership to protect clean air and public health.

“States must step up to lead on climate change solutions while the Trump administration rolls back sensible standards. We welcome Governor Walz’s announcement today and urge governors across the Midwest to act now for cleaner cars and climate change solutions.”

 

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Trump Administration Move Invalidating California’s Waiver Undermines States’ Efforts to Reduce Climate Changing Pollutants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes, jnemes@elpc.org, 312-795-3706

The Trump Administration Move Invalidating California’s Waiver to Set its Own Tailpipe Pollution Rules Undermines States’ Efforts to Reduce Climate Changing Pollutants

This action puts a roadblock in the way of Midwest states that want to join the effort to lead on slashing carbon emissions from new vehicles

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

CHICAGO — The Trump Administration is poised to issue a final rule revoking California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to implement standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes and to preempt states’ leadership in advancing climate change solutions. This is a precursor to fully rolling back Obama-era strong clean car standards set in 2012.

“The Trump Administration’s misguided action today continues its war against sensible actions under the Clean Air Act to protect our climate and public health,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“Climate change harms the Great Lakes and people in our region. The Trump Administration is undercutting California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes in order to protect clean air and our public health.

“ELPC and other parties will challenge in court this legally misguided Trump Administration rollback of environmental protection standards.”

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Environmental advocates applaud investment in Michigan’s first electric school buses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING – A coalition of environmental groups today applauded the rollout of 17 electric school buses for seven Michigan school districts through a Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation pilot project. The buses will transport children to and from schools in Ann Arbor, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Roseville, Three Rivers and Zeeland.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center was one of the earliest advocates for replacing dirty diesel school buses with zero-emission electric school buses,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate at the Midwest-based environmental group. “Adopting electric school buses both benefits children’s health and accelerates the shift to cleaner transportation. We hope this collaborative approach between schools, utilities and state government serves as a model for other states across the country.”

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)’s Fuel Transformation Program is helping replace old diesel school buses using funds allocated to Michigan via the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement. This is the first grant opportunity supported with Volkswagen settlement funds allocated to Michigan via the State Mitigation Trust. The project will be collaboratively funded by the grant, school districts and other partners, including utility companies.

“This is a win-win for Michigan’s kids and Michigan’s environment. Children spend an average of 40 minutes a day in a school bus and the air pollution caused by diesel buses can interfere with lung development and cause health problems like coughing and inflammation,” said Charles Griffith, director of climate and energy programs for the Ecology Center. “We are proud to have been a supporter of the electric school bus pilot project from the beginning, and look forward to additional opportunities to reduce emissions and improve health with future grants from EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program.”

According to a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington, using cleaner school bus transportation could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year.

“This is an important first step to bringing clean, electric transportation to schools and our communities,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “In addition to the short-term benefits of improving air quality and keeping kids safe and healthy, we will see long-term benefits as we address the causes of climate change in our daily lives.”

Diesel exhaust emissions and the soot emitted by engines can exacerbate asthma and allergies, cause lung damage and eye, throat and bronchial irritation.

“We are excited to see Michigan put on the map as a leader in transportation electrification for school buses,” said Kate Madigan, director for the Michigan Climate Action Network. “The harmful emissions from diesel buses can impact respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health of children, who are especially vulnerable. Moving to zero-emission school buses will reduce pollution, improve health and save lives.”

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ELPC Applauds (IL) Lake County Board Decision to End Pursuit of Route 53 Extension

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 12, 2019

 

Environmental Law & Policy Center Applauds Lake County Board Decision to End Pursuit of Route 53 Extension

“This is a big victory and turning point for better transportation solutions in Lake County and the Chicago region”

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the Illinois Tollway’s request to the Federal Highway Administration to rescind the Notice of Intent for the Tri-County Access Environmental Impact Statement, which effectively ends efforts to create a Route 53 extension north of Lake Cook Road, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“This is a big victory and turning point for better transportation solutions in Lake County and the Chicago region. The Illinois Tollway has thrown in the towel, and the Lake County Board has de-prioritized the Route 53 extension, which isn’t financially viable and the public doesn’t want. Together, they are bringing this boondoggle and environmentally destructive tollway to its well-deserved end.

“Let’s acknowledge that the Route 53 tollway seems to have nine lives, but hopefully this is the last.”

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2018 Year End Report

ELPC has been protecting the Midwest’s environment and natural heritage for 25 years. In 2018, we expanded our team of skilled public interest attorneys, policy advocates and communications specialists. We remain focused on the strategic legal, policy and advocacy work that has made ELPC so effective. This work has never been more important and we look forward to more successes in 2019.

To learn more about our 25 years of successful environmental advocacy, download our 2018 End of Year report or view below.

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