SACRAMENTO — Leading a coalition of five attorneys general, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for illegally delaying a rule that encourages automakers to produce vehicle fleets that meet or exceed federal fuel efficiency standards.
Set to take effect this past July, the rule would increase the penalty imposed on automakers whose vehicle fleets do not meet minimum fuel efficiency standards. All federal agencies were required to increase their civil penalty rates by an act of Congress, the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. In response, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a new rule to increase the penalty by $8.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon. The Trump Administration has delayed it, reverting back to the lower penalty rate instead. If the penalty is not sufficiently high, automakers lack a vital incentive to manufacture fuel efficient vehicles.
“President Trump claims to support law and order, yet his Administration routinely ignores laws when it doesn’t like them. We're still a nation of laws. No one, not even the President, is above the law," said Attorney General Becerra.
“More fuel-efficient cars on our roads means cleaner air, better overall health for our children, and savings at the pump for consumers," noted General Becerra. "We will hold the Trump Administration accountable, especially for clear violations of the law that harm Californians.”
On December 28, 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a rule that increased the penalty rate for violating fuel efficiency standards by $8.50, from $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon to $14 per tenth of a mile per gallon.
However, on July 12, NHTSA announced it was indefinitely delaying the effective date of its updated penalty. This is unlawful in two ways. First, NHTSA acted without notice and without taking comment, which violates the Administrative Procedures Act. Second, this arbitrary delay reinstates the outdated $5.50 penalty rate, which violates the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.
The petition was filed by California, New York, Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania. In a similar petition, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity are also challenging NHTSA’s illegal delay.