Libertarian Group Says It Sued Trump Over Emission Standards

(Bloomberg) -- A libertarian group says it filed the first lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s changes to Obama-era fuel efficiency rules -- calling Trump’s laxer emission standards still too strict.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute claims the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have rewritten national clean-car standards without considering adverse effects on traffic safety.

“The agency was right to roll back the scheduled increases in fuel economy standards, which would have made cars less crashworthy and increased highway fatalities,” said Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel. “But NHTSA should have reduced those standards even more, and perhaps frozen them entirely.”

The complaint the group says it filed in a Washington federal court on Friday takes the contrary position to lawsuits that are expected to follow. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra and environmental advocates have said they plan to sue to preserve existing clean-car standards.

The EPA and the NHTSA declined to comment.

The competing legal challenges come as the coronavirus crisis has frozen car sales, sent gas prices to historic lows and emptied the air of automotive emissions. A final ruling in the case will have an impact on the same issues into the future.

The Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient rule, unveiled March 31, requires 2026 model-year cars, trucks and SUVs to average roughly 40 miles per gallon as opposed to closer to 47 mpg under the previous standard set by the Obama administration. That translates to a 70% annual hike in polluting vehicle emissions.

CEI said it was filing the complaint with individual plaintiffs “concerned about the SAFE’s rule’s impact on their future car-buying choices,” according to a statement from the group.

The court filing couldn’t be immediately verified on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’s docket.

Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG and BMW AG have already made a deal with California to meet rules that would be a compromise between Obama’s standards and Trump’s plans. Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, also joined the group of carmakers volunteering to meet California’s tougher standards.

Trump says his plan will make cars cheaper and slammed the car companies for agreeing to a higher standard.

California says the state regulations on vehicle emissions have cut the amount of many pollution levels 75% to 99% in the past 50 years, avoiding 29,000 premature deaths each year. But rising temperatures in the future as a result of climate change will exacerbate the ozone problems, according to the state.

“There is a clear relationship between increasing temperature and increasing ozone concentrations,” the state says on its website.

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