U.S. states sue Trump administration over fuel efficiency rollback

Environment

FILE PHOTO: Cars fill the roads as people travel before the Thanksgiving Day holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging a Trump administration decision to weaken Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.

In March, the Trump administration issued final rules requiring 1.5% annual increases in vehicle fuel efficiency through 2026 – far weaker than the 5% increases in the discarded rules set under former President Barack Obama. But the Trump administration also abandoned its August 2018 proposal to freeze requirements at 2020 levels through 2026.

Last week, a trade group representing General Motors Co (GM.N), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU.N), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and others sided with the Trump administration on its plan and opposed a legal challenge to further weaken the requirements.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the revised requirements “will increase costs to consumers and allow the emission of dangerous pollutants that directly threaten the health of our communities.”

New York City, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles are joining the challenge by California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and 17 other states.

Separately, 12 environmental groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists also sued over the rules.

The Trump requirements mean the U.S. vehicle fleet will average 40.4 miles per gallon rather than 46.7 under the Obama rules finalized in 2012.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called the rule a “gift to the fossil fuel industry” that would harm the state, home to Detroit’s Big Three automakers, because it would reduce automotive-related employment by 4%. She said automakers were afraid of a “mean tweet” from U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Environmental Protection Agency declined comment on the suit but defended the rule as a “sensible, single national program that strikes the right regulatory balance, protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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