Why I’m su­ing to block Trump’s roll­back of clean car stan­dards

The Morning Call - - TOWN SQUARE - Josh Shapiro Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro has joined a coalition of 22 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia who have sued to block the fed­eral roll­back of the Clean Car Stan­dards.

Last month, while mil­lions of young peo­ple across the globe marched in the Global Cli­mate Strike to de­mand ac­tion on cli­mate change, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment launched yet an­other at­tack on our en­vi­ron­ment by rolling back the Clean Car Stan­dards. This ac­tion brazenly un­der­mines states’ rights to pro­tect their own en­vi­ron­ment and cit­i­zens.

As Penn­syl­va­nia at­tor­ney gen­eral, I have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to act as a check on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment when it in­fringes upon our sovereignt­y, in- clud­ing on Penn­syl­va­ni­ans’ con­sti­tu­tional rights to clean air and pure wa­ter. The fed­eral roll­back of the Clean Car Stan­dards threat­ens those rights, and so — in­spired by those who made their voices heard dur­ing the Cli­mate Strike — I’m fight­ing back.

The Clean Air Act gives states the right to im­pose lim­its on au­to­mo­bile emis­sions if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment isn’t do­ing its job and pro­tect­ing res­i­dents from pol­lu­tion. In 1998, un­der Repub­li­can Gov. Tom Ridge, Penn­syl­va­nia adopted the Clean Ve­hi­cle Pro­gram, which com­mit­ted our state to tougher emis­sions stan­dards al­ready in ef­fect in Cal­i­for­nia and many other states.

As a re­sult, Penn­syl­va­nia has been at the fore­front of ef­forts to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions and smog-caus­ing pol­lu­tants. It was partly be­cause of the ef­forts of Penn­syl­va­nia and other states that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment en­acted the land­mark Clean Car Stan­dards in 2010, which set our na­tion on a path to­ward mean­ing­ful re­duc­tions in green­house gases emit­ted by cars and trucks.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to uni­lat­er­ally do away with the states’ rights pro­tec­tions in the Clean Air Act. But the au­thor­ity given to Penn­syl­va­nia and other states to adopt tougher emis­sions stan­dards was passed over­whelm­ingly on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis. A pres­i­dent can’t sim­ply do away with it by is­su­ing a reg­u­la­tion.

The stan­dards help pro­tect all of us, par­tic­u­larly our most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens — se­niors, chil­dren and in­di­vid­u­als with health is­sues. They seek to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions by 4.4% each year for 2022 to 2025.

The stan­dards are ex­pected to pre­vent up to 2,000 pre­ma­ture deaths, 50,000 cases of re­s­pi­ra­tory ail­ments, and re­duce asthma symp­toms for 24 mil­lion Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing 6.3 mil­lion chil­dren. These are tan­gi­ble health ben­e­fits that Penn­syl­va­nia badly needs.

The stan­dards also pro­tect fam­ily bud­gets from dra­matic price in­creases at the gas pump. Driv­ers have saved more than $50 bil­lion at the pump since they were adopted and Penn­syl­va­ni­ans alone have saved $1.2 bil­lion. If they re­main in place, ev­ery Penn­syl­va­nia driver can ex­pect to save $1,650 at the pump by 2030.

The ben­e­fits of these stan­dards go be­yond our wal­lets — they ben­e­fit our econ­omy as a whole. The Clean Car Stan­dards are spurring job growth in the auto in­dus­try. Na­tion­wide, there are 288,000 jobs associated with clean ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies. If these stan­dards re­main in place, Penn­syl­va­nia can ex­pect 26,400 new, fam­ily-sus­tain­ing jobs by 2030.

De­spite the proven health, fi­nan­cial, and eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the ex­ist­ing Clean Car Stan­dards, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is at­tempt­ing to re­verse this progress. The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently is­sued a reg­u­la­tion de­signed to pre­empt other states’ Clean Car Stan­dards. NHSTA is over­step­ping its au­thor­ity and en­croach­ing on the rights of states to pro­tect their own cit­i­zens and en­vi­ron­ment. This reg­u­la­tion would ef­fec­tively re­voke the rights of Penn­syl­va­nia to con­trol ve­hi­cle pol­lu­tion within our own borders, both now and in the fu­ture.

The Preemp­tion Rule vi­o­lates the Clean Air Act and con­flicts with two fed­eral court de­ci­sions. It ig­nores 50 years of his­tory, dur­ing which both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions have re­spected the rights of states to im­ple­ment tougher emis­sions stan­dards. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­posal is so ex­treme that even car man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t sup­port it. Ford, Honda, Volk­swa­gen and BMW re­cently en­tered into a land­mark agree­ment with Cal­i­for­nia to com­ply with higher stan­dards than those pro­posed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Clean Car Stan­dards are com­mon sense: They save con­sumers money, they re­duce pol­lu­tion and they cre­ate new jobs.

Un­der our state Con­sti­tu­tion, Penn­syl­va­ni­ans have a right to clean air and pure wa­ter. I’ll do ev­ery­thing in my power as at­tor­ney gen­eral to de­fend those rights and pro­tect Penn­syl­va­nia’s en­vi­ron­ment.


In 1998, Penn­syl­va­nia adopted the Clean Ve­hi­cle Pro­gram, com­mit­ting to tighter emis­sions stan­dards in ef­fect in many states.

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