At issue is the Trump administration's release Thursday of its anticipated proposal to halt regulations tightening vehicle fuel efficiency and pollution standards, laying the groundwork for a nationwide battle over whether the federal government can preempt California's ability to set its own requirements. That ignores the fact that more fuel-efficient vehicles are cheaper to operate since drivers have to buy less gas.
"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment". Currently California has a special waiver under the Clean Air Act to enact stricter rules than those at the federal level. Its analysis shows the Trump administration's new regime for vehicles would result in an additional 120m tons of carbon emissions by 2030 - the equivalent of running 30 coal-fired power plants for a year.
The Trump administration is proposing to roll back tougher Obama-era gas mileage requirements that are set to take effect after 2020. This means that automakers would need to maintain a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon, rather than achieving the previous proposal of reaching 50 mpg in 2025, according to Automotive News.
The prospect of an extended legal fight has discomfited automakers, who had asked the administration to relax the Obama-era rules but don't want to see the US market split in two, with different models of cars required in blue and red states.
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Automakers view the new proposal as a starting point for negotiations with California, with hopes of keeping one fuel efficiency standard for the entire nation.
Environmental groups in ME, which is among the states that adopted California's tougher emissions requirements for new cars, and around the country quickly denounced the widely anticipated move.
The Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement that relaxing mileage standards in the years ahead would give "the American people greater access to safer, more affordable vehicles that are cleaner for the environment".
"This has to be absolutely one of the most harmful and dumbest actions that the EPA has taken", said Healey of MA, one of the attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia objecting to the change.
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Chet France, an EPA senior executive until his retirement in 2012, called the administration's contention that the mileage freeze would cause only a tiny increase in climate-changing exhaust emissions "bogus".
The administration's proposal asserts that "attempting to solve climate change, even in part" is "fundamentally different" from the Clean Air Act's "original goal of addressing smog-related air quality problems". "Maine wants cleaner cars nationwide because upwind pollution matters so much to us, so we've done our part by using the best clean vehicle standards available". California and 18 other states that follow the same guidelines have promised to sue.
"Californians have a right to breathe clean air, and we're not giving that up to President Trump without a fight", Feinstein said.
Other states that joined in the lawsuit were: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
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Now they're only about one-third, with less-efficient trucks and SUVS making up the rest.