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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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September 20, 2019


Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general, the cities of Los Angeles and New York, and the California Air Resources Board in filing a lawsuit against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The lawsuit, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, challenges the federal government’s unlawful regulation designed to preempt California’s greenhouse gas emissions and Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards, also known as California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards. The standards are a key part of states’ efforts to protect public health and the environment. In the lawsuit, Raoul and the coalition assert that the Preemption Rule is unlawful and should be vacated.

“This reckless action by the federal government is unlawful, irresponsible, and ignores the science and proven benefits of the Clean Car Standards,” Raoul said. “I simply will not tolerate the federal government’s actions to refute scientific facts and allow climate change to go unchecked, all while putting our environment and public health at risk.”

“I applaud Attorney General Raoul for pushing back against President Trump’s attempt to roll back these commonsense public health and environmental protections,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “When the federal government is actually taking us backward on efforts to combat the climate crisis, states must act. That’s why I joined the U.S. Climate Alliance in my first weeks of office, repealed the Kyoto Protocol Act, allowing the state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and invested $140 million for renewable energy projects in our capital plan. I look forward to building on that progress as we put Illinois on a path toward 100% clean and renewable energy.”

Through its unlawful regulation, the NHTSA is attempting to declare the California greenhouse gas and ZEV standards preempted under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). The NHTSA is relying on arguments that have been repeatedly rejected by multiple courts. Additionally, the NHTSA is overstepping the authority granted by Congress and ignoring Congress’ repeated preservation of California’s authority. In January 2012, California adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Cars Program for cars and light duty trucks in model years 2017 through 2025. The program improves air quality and curbs greenhouse gases while saving drivers money at the pump and reducing oil consumption. On its own, the California program would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state by approximately 14.4 million metric tons a year by 2025 and 25.2 million metric tons a year by 2030.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center joins Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul in condemning the Trump Administration’s latest misguided action. The continued war against sensible actions under the Clean Air Act endangers our climate and public health in the Great Lakes region,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Trump Administration is undercutting California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from tailpipes in order to protect clean air and our public health.”

“President Trump is trying to take us backward on clean car standards, which will mean dirtier air and lost jobs for Illinoisans,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “We appreciate Attorney General Kwame Raoul for condemning this federal rollback and taking a step to combat climate change emissions in Illinois.”

“Pollution from cars in Illinois contributes to the smog and soot pollution that threatens the lives of those with asthma and other respiratory problems, and the climate change that threatens our communities and agricultural economy with increased flooding, storm damage, and droughts,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “We applaud Attorney General Raoul for standing up to Trump’s rollback and fighting for Illinois’ freedom to protect the health of our communities by choosing the cleaner cars of the future, which would mean much cleaner air, savings at the pump, and supporting quality jobs for auto workers building these new technologies right here in Illinois.”

“It’s shocking and disturbing to hear that our own federal government wants to strip away one of the best tools states have for cleaning the air we breathe, stabilizing the climate, keeping children out of the hospital, and keeping people from dying,” said Brian Urbaszewski, director of Environmental Health Programs for the Respiratory Health Association. “Trying to prohibit states like Illinois from protecting their own residents from deadly smog and the dangers of an unstable climate must be fiercely fought and stopped in the courts.”

In the lawsuit, Raoul and the coalition of states ask the court to strike down the regulation as unlawful on the basis that the NHTSA:

  • Claims to exercise authority that Congress has not granted the agency.
  • Imagines an inherent conflict between two sets of rules that have co-existed for years: California’s standards and the NHTSA’s fuel economy standards.
  • Willfully misreads the EPCA as preempting state emission standards when the EPCA explicitly directed the NHTSA to account for state standards
  • Incorrectly interprets the EPCA as repealing portions of the Clean Air Act.
  • Fails 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 changes from its previous positions or its reasons for acting.
  • Fails to respect states’ authority to protect the public’s health and welfare.
  • Disregards the role the standards play in helping California and other states meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The federal government’s action will increase the frequent and life threatening extreme weather events resulting from climate change that have already caused dire harms in Illinois. Residents and communities throughout Illinois are continuing to recover from spring storms and record flood levels that impacted 36 counties. Extreme weather has also prevented farmers from planting crops on time, reduced crop yield, and harmed crop quality, all of which negatively impacts Illinois’ economy. The federal rule would illegally impede Illinois’ statutory right to protect residents from pollution by restricting the state’s ability to adopt auto emission standards in the future.

The Attorney General’s office has long advocated for meaningful limits on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. In 2007 the Attorney General’s office joined landmark litigation argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, which found that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Raoul’s office has also taken legal action and filed briefs and comments opposing the EPA’s efforts to weaken Clean Car Standards and undermine penalties for car companies that violate fuel economy standards.

Joining Raoul in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; as well as the cities of Los Angeles and New York.


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