In the years following the 2008 economic crisis, a series of measures adopted by the Obama administration imposed stricter rules regarding vehicle emissions on auto manufacturers in the U.S. These measures also established deadlines after which standards would become more severe, all the way to 2025. By that year, according to the regulations, the average fuel consumption of a manufacturer’s fleet of models would have to be 54.4 mpg, or 4.3L/100 km. Those numbers were slightly different for the SUV and pickup truck segments.
The regulations and the numbers were arrived at in collaboration with industry stakeholders, and recent technological advances meant that many automakers are now on track to meet the new standards even before the 2025 deadline.
The Trump administration sees things a bit differently. This past April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), headed by Scott Pruitt, announced that it would opt not to renew the Obama-era standards. This decision set off a firestorm of protest, and this week 17 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against the EPA and Scott Pruitt.
The lawsuit claims that Pruitt and his agency acted in arbitrary fashion and in bad faith. In addition, the states accuse the EPA with failing to provide any proof to justify its decision, which in effect declared that the objectives laid down by the Obama administration were too severe.
The state of California, one of the signatories of the legal action, has for decades benefited from a derogation allowing it to set its own, stricter standards. The American government is threatening to revoke the state’s derogation to force it to submit to federal norms.
The west coast state, which represents the largest automotive market in the U.S., has already said that it will contest any such decision in court.
In all, the 17 states involved in the new legal action against the Trump administration account for 40% of vehicles sold in the country.
This fight is clearly still just in its early stages, and it will be watched closely as its repercussions will be felt around the world, starting right here in Canada.