NJ Joins Fight Against Trump Administration’s Rollback of Fuel-Economy Standards

New Jersey, 20 other states want federal agencies to withdraw a proposal that would ‘gut’ clean car standards

tailpipe emissions smog
New Jersey is joining with 20 other states in fighting a bid by the Trump administration to roll back fuel-economy standards aimed at curbing climate changing emissions from vehicles.

In joint comments submitted Friday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the attorneys general from the states wants the federal agencies to withdraw a proposal to freeze national clean car standards.

The administration proposal scraps a deal reached between automakers, the environmental and highway agencies under former President Obama that sought to reduce carbon pollution from vehicles. The Trump administration says its plan would save motorists hundreds of millions of dollars and lower costs for new cars.

The issue is significant for New Jersey where state efforts to reduce emissions from vehicles have lagged behind steps to curb pollution from power plants, manufacturers and other so-called stationary sources.

“Motor vehicles are by far the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey,’’ said state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe. “We will not stand idly by while the Trump administration disassembles good policies and programs intended to fight climate change, an issue of great importance to the future of our state.’’

Battling to uphold Obama-era rule

New Jersey already is in court over the federal government’s decision to revise the Obama-era rule, saying it has failed to provide evidence to back that decision. That case is ongoing. The latest letter from the attorneys general was submitted as the two agencies are closing the comment period on the new rule.

“It is time for Washington to step up to combat climate change, not fall down on the job,’’ New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. ‘’Unfortunately, EPA is relying on flawed science and flawed policy to cut back on our country’s clean car rules.’’

Backers of the existing rule contend it will limit carbon pollution by 6 billion tons, save consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, and reduce oil consumption by up to 4 million barrels per day. The rule would have required fuel economy standards with a fleetwide average of roughly 54 miles per gallon per day by 2025. The new rule would freeze fuel economy standards for six years.

Beyond not tightening fuel-economy standards, the new proposal seeks to revoke California’s long-standing authority to maintain more stringent standards, a policy New Jersey and other states have opted to follow.

In the joint letter, the states said, “EPA recklessly proposes to gut the primary emission reduction program for the United States’ single-largest sector for greenhouse gases.’’

Arguing rollback is unlawful

The state also argued the proposed rollback is unlawful because the agencies failed to provide supporting data and assumptions for the basis of the change in the standards.

“EPA’s apparent resignation to catastrophic climate change constitutes a wholesale abdication of its statutory obligations to the American people,’’ according to the letter.

The letter is the latest concerted effort by the states to challenge what they view as rollbacks in environmental rules. In July, Grewal and other states’ attorneys general sued the EPA over its decision to suspend a rule to limit super-polluting trucks on the road. In response, the federal agency backed off the proposal.

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