California launched another lawsuit against the Trump administration over fuel economy regulations Friday, this time over a federal decision to suspend planned increases in penalties for automakers who miss required targets.
In announcing the lawsuit, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused the Trump administration of trying to make fuel-economy standards "meaningless.”
California was joined by 12 other states in the latest lawsuit, according to a Reuters report. New York Attorney General Letitia James called the rule “another misguided and reckless attempt by the Trump Administration to roll back the clock on our clean air standards.”
NHTSA responded to Reuters that it is following the intent of the congressional mandate in freezing the fines.
In response, in 2016, under the Obama administration the NHTSA raised the fines from $5.50 to $14 per tenth of an mpg the automakers exceed the standards. (The fines are multiplied by the automaker's annual production of light vehicles that miss the standards.) Automakers say the increase could cost them up to $1 billion a year.
Smog over Los Angeles, courtesy Flickr user steven-buss
Last August the NHTSA announced a joint decision with the EPA to freeze fuel economy standards—the numbers automakers have to hit to avoid the fines—at 2020 levels through 2026. The EPA could release its final plan after Labor Day.
Although the EPA's current proposal aims to freeze fuel economy standards at about 37 mpg, the final plan is expected to include small year-to-year increases through 2025.
California sued the EPA over the proposal to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards and was joined by 16 other states and Washington, D.C. The governors of 23 states—including several reliably Republican states—also wrote to the EPA to protest the freeze.
Under federal law, other states can choose to follow federal standards or stricter California rules, but they cannot set their own. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. have opted to follow California emissions standards for gas cars, and nine of those have joined California's electric car requirement. These are among the states that have joined in the lawsuits.
As part of its effort to freeze the emissions and fuel economy standards, the Trump administration has also threatened to sue to overturn California's right to set any standards.