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November 15, 2019 5:00 PM, EST

California Sues Trump EPA in Fight Over Green Auto Rules

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraCalifornia Attorney General Xavier Becerra by Alex Brandon/Associated Press

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California sued the Trump administration for rescinding an Obama-era waiver that allows the state to require sales of electric vehicles and set stricter auto-emissions standards than the federal government.

The most populous state claims the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrongfully reversed course on the waiver after more than five decades of granting California, the nation’s biggest vehicle market, permission to set its own standards.

Other states have a long history of adopting California’s tougher rules to reduce smog and help tackle the worsening impacts of climate change. Almost two dozen states joined in the lawsuit filed Nov. 15, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

“The Trump administration, on the other hand, has chosen to side with polluters,” Becerra said in a statement. “We believe we’re on the right side of history.”

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has argued his policy of less strict auto-emissions standards will make cars more affordable. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

The federal government’s new policy relates to greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks for model years 2021 to 2026.

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block declined to comment on the suit. She said the administration’s new policy “brings much-needed certainty to consumers and industry by making it clear that federal law pre-empts state and local tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards as well as zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandates.”

President Donald Trump has questioned the science of climate change and moved to pull the U.S. out of the global Paris Agreement that was intended to address the environmental threat. EPA has nevertheless criticized California over water pollution and accused the state of not doing enough to curb smog.

Trump also has argued that his new policies will ensure that consumers can afford cars that could become out of reach under standards pushed by former President Barack Obama. Trump also blamed the California standards for high gasoline prices.

California in September filed a related lawsuit in Washington against the administration for asserting in its new policy that the Transportation Department’s authority to set fuel-economy standards pre-empts California’s ability to dictate tailpipe-emissions standards.

The Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was accused in the lawsuit of ignoring repeated efforts by federal lawmakers to preserve California’s power to improve its air quality.

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