Md. Joins National Lawsuit Against Trump Attempt to Rein in States’ Emissions Standards

    Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who earlier this week harshly criticized a new Trump administration regulation designed to preempt California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, has joined a lawsuit by other attorneys general to overturn the rule.

    Twenty-three states, along with the District of Columbia, Los Angeles and New York City, sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Friday to challenge the Trump administration’s regulation preventing California and other states from setting vehicle emissions standards that are stronger than federal rules.

    States consider California’s standards – authorized in 2013 by a waiver from the Obama administration Environmental Protection Agency and followed in part or whole by 13 other states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia — a key part of their efforts to protect public health and the environment. In the lawsuit, the coalition asserts that Trump’s is unlawful and should be vacated.

    “Reversing course in the country’s efforts to reduce air pollution from passenger vehicles is unlawful, irresponsible, and endangers the health of our children and our environment,” Frosh said in a statement Friday. “Wiping out these common-sense standards undermines successful efforts made by states, including Maryland, to combat greenhouse gas emissions.”

    In the lawsuit, the attorneys general ask the court to strike down the regulation as unlawful on the basis that NHTSA:

    • Purports to exercise authority that Congress has not granted the agency;
    • Imagines an inherent conflict between two sets of rules, California’s standards and NHTSA’s fuel economy standards, which have co-existed for years;
    • Ignores the authority and intent of Congress, which has repeatedly reaffirmed and embraced California’s authority over the last four decades;
    • Flouts the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to assess or analyze the damage that the agency’s rule will inflict on the environment and public health;
    • Acts arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to explain about-faces from its previous positions or its reasons for acting;
    • Fails to respect states’ authority to protect public health and welfare; and,
    • Disregards the role these standards play in helping California and other states meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

    Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has also been sharply critical of the new Trump administration rule.

    “As a national leader on clean cars, climate change, and greenhouse gas reduction, my administration cannot allow these federal actions to stand as they will adversely impact the environment, including the progress Maryland has made on air and water quality,” Hogan wrote in a recent letter to Frosh. Hogan has also argued that the new federal rule runs counter to the concept of states’ rights.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.