OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is joining 16 other states in challenging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt’s decision to rescind the final approval of standards for light-duty vehicle emissions and fuel economy.
The standards, put in place for car and light-duty truck models produced between 2022 and 2025, ensure that new vehicles have better fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
“The vehicle emissions standards protect the environment and save consumers money with better fuel economy,” said Ferguson. “The EPA once again is ignoring the needs of consumers, its duty to protect the environment and most importantly, the law.”
On April 2, 2018 Pruitt announced that standards that the agency had deemed viable in January 2017 were no longer achievable for the auto industry. On April 13, the EPA formally published its decision to restart the approval process.
Ferguson, along with 16 other states and the District of Columbia, filed a petition for review in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to keep the previous, thoroughly researched standards in place for model year 2022 to 2025 vehicles.
Ferguson alleges that Pruitt’s decision to reverse the January 2017 determination was arbitrary and capricious because he did not base his decision on any new information that would invalidate the evidence supporting the January 2017 determination, making the decision unlawful. The federal Administrative Procedure Act prohibits arbitrary and capricious agency actions.
“One of the most effective ways to drive emissions reductions in the auto industry is to drive innovation through clear, certain and predictable standards. Reducing emissions is not only essential for addressing climate change, it’s crucial for ensuring clean air for all Americans,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Arbitrary and capricious seem to be the standard operating principles of this administration, and I’m proud Washington is among the states holding them accountable for following the rule of law.”
The EPA, together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, created standards for light-duty vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions and average fuel economy in 2012. These standards apply to model year vehicles from 2017 to 2025 and become increasingly stringent as time goes on.
Pruitt’s decision would roll back standards approved for 2022 to 2025.
When adopted in 2012, the standards required a mid-term review by 2018 to evaluate whether standards for greenhouse gas emissions and average fuel economy were still achievable for model years 2022 to 2025. The EPA completed this review in late 2016.
In January 2017, following the completion of its review, the EPA made a final determination that the current standards were still viable for the industry. Because Pruitt announced that he would withdraw that determination in April 2018 without citing any additional evidence, Ferguson argues that his decision was arbitrary and capricious – and consequently unlawful.
If Ferguson’s lawsuit is successful in preserving them, the EPA estimates the standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2 billion metric tons over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold between 2017 and 2025 — the equivalent of the annual emissions of 422 million cars currently on the road. The standards will save approximately 4 billion barrels of oil.
If allowed to stand, the standards will also limit emissions that trigger asthma attacks and contribute to smog formation.
This lawsuit follows a letter that Ferguson and the states sent to Pruitt in June 2017, after the agency head criticized the review process for light-duty vehicle emissions standards. The letter rebutted Pruitt’s statements that the EPA did not follow all legal requirements for review and pledged a lawsuit if Pruitt attempted weaken or delay the standards.
Assistant Attorney General Kay Shirey is representing Washington in the case.
This is Ferguson’s 25th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.
Ferguson has not lost a case brought against the Trump Administration. The Attorney General’s Office prevailed in all five cases against the Trump Administration that are completed and there are no more appeals. That does not include four additional successful outcomes that have been or could be appealed, including blocking President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.