The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Katherine Hoff, (213) 785-5404,

Lawsuit Targets Trump Administration Push to Gut Car Pollution Standards

Conservation groups


Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today to block a major rollback of fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles. The revised standards will worsen dangerous levels of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and cost consumers more at the gas pump without making the nation's roads safer.

Today's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation ignored potential harms to the climate, public health and endangered species, in violation of federal law. The Center for Biological Diversity joined 11 other groups in filing the suit.

"The Trump administration's reckless rollback will poison people, plants and animals while worsening the climate crisis," said Katherine Hoff, a Los Angeles-based attorney at the Center. "It's despicable for Trump to take advantage of the pandemic to slash environmental protections, knowing this virus preys on people with health problems linked to dirty air. We hope a court agrees that this rollback is as illegal as it is dangerous."

The administration's final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule, or so-called SAFE rule, requires automakers to increase fuel efficiency by just 1.5% per year for cars and light trucks in the model years 2021 through 2026. This is a dramatic rollback of Obama administration rules that required annual efficiency increases of nearly 5%.

The new standard will result in significant increases in greenhouse gas emissions, which will worsen climate change. But contrary to law, the administration failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, which is required by the Endangered Species Act. Yet these agencies have determined that human-caused climate change is a current or potential threat to more than 70% of all species listed from 2012 to 2015.

Traffic-related air pollution can increase the risk of developing asthma in both children and adults. Research shows that pollution from sources including tailpipes contributes to a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19.

"Gutting these modest clean-car rules is a direct attack on the air we breathe and the future of our planet," said Hoff. "The administration is flouting science, logic and human decency to send us careering off the climate cliff. It's a prescription for failure, when we should be leading the world in zero-emission technology."

The new rule is part of the Trump administration's drive to deny California's efforts to curb vehicle emissions. Last fall the Center and other groups sued the administration over its attempt to block California, and other states following its standards, from setting auto emissions standards more protective than the federal government's. That case is pending.

The failure to curb car pollution is worsening global warming. The world's top scientists agree that 2010 greenhouse gas emissions levels must be halved by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Fuel-efficiency requirements are a crucial step.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252