Local Governments Across the Country File Legal Brief Challenging Clean Cars Rollback

Today, the Sabin Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of local governments in support of state, city, environmental, and public health petitioners in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The lawsuit challenges the so-called Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) Rule, the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Obama Administration’s clean car standards.

In 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks. This action represented a critical step in the national effort to address climate change; transportation is the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020 the agencies repealed those standards and replaced them with a much weaker rule that—by the Trump Administration’s own admission—will result in nearly a billion additional tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This is equivalent to running over 200 coal plants for a year. The Biden Administration is likely to ask the court to halt litigation while it repeals the SAFE Rule and issues standards that aim to protect the climate and public health.

The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and fifteen individual cities, towns, counties, and mayors filed an amicus brief today to underscore why the SAFE Rule cannot stand. The local government brief illustrates the threats that motor vehicle emissions pose to cities, including climate impacts and public health harms associated with smog and particulate matter. The brief also warns that in issuing the SAFE Rule, the EPA failed to consider the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from motor vehicles, and disregarded its statutory mandate to reduce pollution in order to protect public health. Moreover, both agencies ignored local governments’ reliance on the preexisting motor vehicle standards. Finally, the agencies unlawfully downplayed the environmental justice impacts of their action, including the fact that communities of color and low-income communities will be disproportionately impacted by climate change and transportation pollution made worse by the SAFE Rule.

The brief was signed by the National League of Cities; the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Annapolis, Maryland; Boulder County, Colorado; Glen Rock, New Jersey; Harris County, Texas; Houston, Texas; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Salt Lake City, Utah; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Mayors of Durham, North Carolina; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Phoenix, Arizona.

Read the brief here.

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