State Attorneys General Warn the EPA of Legal Action Should Obama-Era Fuel Economy Standards Get Rolled Back

15 June 2017 Dashboard Insights Blog

Even as the Trump administration is calling into question whether it will remain committed to Obama-era fuel economy and emissions targets, state governments are stepping up to enforce those same targets.

When President Trump announced his intent to loosen fuel economy regulations, the California Air Resources Board voted to stick with the tougher standards—and, under a longstanding waiver, California may be permitted to enforce those standards, even if federal regulations are less stringent.  (California’s waiver was challenged in 2007 by the Bush administration; but President Obama reversed that stance after taking office.)

Twelve other states and the District of Columbia have now announced that they will take legal action should the EPA follow through with action to undo the Obama-era standards for the 2022-25 model years.  In a letter authored by the New York Attorney General, the states disagreed with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s contention that the EPA review resulting in the finalization of the 2022-25 standards was flawed.  The states argued that the standards were not just feasible, but are feasible given now-existing technology, and that the standards were important to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The move comes at an interesting time for state actions against the Trump administration, and for environmental regulation generally.  President Trump has recently taken the highly visible step of withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, a voluntary international agreement seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Many mayors and governors (including several governors for states joining in the letter to Scott Pruitt) responded to that withdrawal by indicating their support for the goals of the agreement. Meanwhile, states such as Washington (which joined the letter to the EPA) and Minnesota have achieved high-profile legal victories challenging steps taken by the Trump administration on immigration, and Maryland and the District of Columbia (both signatories to the letter to the EPA) have filed their own litigation directly against the president based on claimed violations of the Constitution.  Given the tension between these states and the federal government (tension that Scott Pruitt himself was recently on the other side of), there is little reason to think that these governors and attorneys general are bluffing when it comes to taking legal action should the EPA reverse course on fuel economy and emissions standards.

No matter which side of the debate over these standards industry players fall on, the future of these standards is uncertain at best.  As lead times for development of new products and new technologies begin to encroach, it may turn out that the courts will be the ones deciding what standards manufacturers need to follow in five short years.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services


Ten Minute Interview: M&A Challenges & Opportunities
23 November 2022
Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva and Koss Corp.
23 November 2022
Cannabis Company Cops to SEC Accounting Fraud Charges
22 November 2022
Legal News: Cannabis Industry
Foley Automotive Report
22 November 2022
Dashboard Insights
CLE Weeks
5-16 December 2022
Milwaukee, WI
Foley Sponsors Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Program
1 December 2021 - 30 November 2022
Michigan and Northwest Ohio Region
2022 Distressed Investing Conference
28 November 2022
New York, NY
Meet and Greet and Panel Discussion with E. Martin Estrada and Cuauhtemoc Ortega
28 November 2022
Los Angeles, CA