Court will review challenge to Obama vehicle rule rollback

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A legal challenge to a key action underpinning the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era clean car rules is set to proceed after a court order last week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced Wednesday that it will review a challenge to the Trump administration’s final determination — a critical basis for the rollback — on the merits.

While it sounds technical, the final determination is essentially the analysis that the administration used to justify its reworking of the Obama-era car rules.

In 2011, when the Obama administration issued the first car rules for model years 2022 to 2025, it committed to a midterm evaluation in 2018 — halfway between 2011 and 2025.

After that evaluation wrapped up, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in the final determination that the Obama-era standards were “inappropriate” and should be revised (Greenwire, April 3).

In particular, the final determination found that “the current standards are based on outdated information, and that more recent information suggests that the current standards may be too stringent.”

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in May (E&E News PM, May 1).

A coalition of environmental groups — including the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council — also filed briefs in the case (E&E News PM, May 15).

The Trump administration urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit without considering its merits. But the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday refused the request.

The court’s decision, which came the day before Thanksgiving, prompted some green groups to express gratitude.

“We’re thankful that the D.C. Circuit has rejected the Trump EPA’s attempt to evade review of its fact-free justification for attacking the clean car standards,” said Martha Roberts, senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement.

“The clean car standards are one of our nation’s biggest environmental success stories, and the Trump EPA’s justification for undermining them — the final determination — lacks any basis in sound economic, science or health data,” she said.

In a news release, EDF also pointed out that the midterm evaluation quoted auto industry representatives 14 times, without once mentioning the words “health,” “climate” or “air pollution.”