3 May 18

The ‘United’ States against America

17 States, including New York and California, filed a lawsuit on 1 May, challenging the Trump administration’s decision to loosen vehicle emissions standards.

After the decision of the Trump Administration to undermine the current vehicle emission standards,  17 states filed a lawsuit to challenge the Administration. California Governor Jerry Brown emphasised the importance of the case: ‘This is about health, it is about life and death.’

The coalition

To fight the federal decision, California set up a coalition to sue the Administration in federal appeals court. The coalition is joined by New York, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Iowa, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, and other smaller localities. Together they inhabit 140 million Americans, or 40 percent of the country, giving them considerable political power.

What's more, the lawsuit from the States is not the first against the Trump Administration, which was challenged in court before by 26 states, against its strategy to get rid of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The States won and the requirement from states to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants remained.


The California Air Resources Board defends the current vehicle emissions standards, that would not take effect until 2022, by claiming that they are already being achieved nowadays. Reaching the targets years ahead of the actual deadlines can be largely attributed to the anticipating automotive sector. 

In addition, the proposal would stop California from imposing its own state emissions standards, as it has done for decades. Given the size of the state, the Californian emission standards do influence the entire nation. However the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not agree on single states having their own standards and dictating national policy.

California’s leadership regarding emission standards fits in the overall leadership of the state regarding combatting climate change and reducing emissions. Not surprisingly it was the state of California that stepped up against the Trump administration.

To be continued

Fearing the consequences of legislative insecurity, carmakers such as General Motors and Toyota are requesting the States and the Trump Administration to reach agreement and extend national standards. But the Environmental Protection Agency requested to delay ongoing court proceedings on the regulation, which is fought by the states coalition who are willing to decide now. Up to date, the EPA declined to comment.

Image: Smog and fog over Los Angeles County

Author: Fien Van den Steen