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California, 16 other states sue Trump administration over plan to scrap emission standards

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California and 16 other states sued the Trump administration Tuesday over its plans to scrap standards on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, which help set gas mileage rules. The suit takes aim at a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back and revise emissions standards for vehicles manufactured between 2022 and 2025. Those standards would have translated to vehicles getting 36 miles of real-world driving per gallon by 2025 -- about 10 miles over the existing standard. 

"Pollutants coming out of vehicle, out of tailpipes, does permanent lung damage to children living well-traveled roads and freeways. The only way we're going to overcome that is by reducing emissions," California Gov. Jerry Brown said as he announced the lawsuit alongside state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

Brown said in a statement that the states joining the lawsuit represent 140 million people "who simply want cleaner and more efficient cars."

"This phalanx of states will defend the nation's clean car standards to boost gas mileage and curb toxic air pollution," he said.

Becerra said: "Enough is enough."

"We're not looking to pick a fight with the Trump Administration, but when the stakes are this high for our families' health and our economic prosperity, we have a responsibility to do what is necessary to defend them," he said in a statement.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has said the standards are not appropriate and need revision. They were set in 2012 when California and the Obama administration agreed to a single nationwide fuel economy standard. 

Pruitt outlined his reasoning for the change in an April 13 posting to the Federal Register. He argued assumptions about gas prices and vehicle technology used by the Obama administration to set the standards were too optimistic. The standards, he said, would hurt automakers and consumers who can't afford or don't want to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. 

EPA's Scott Pruitt on emissions standards 04:45

California officials say the standards are achievable and the EPA's effort to roll them back is not based on any new research. They argue the plan violates the Clean Air Act and didn't follow the agency's own regulations. 

California has a unique waiver that allows it to set its own tailpipe emissions standards for vehicles, which it has used to combat smog and more recently global warming. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have adopted the California standards as their own. 

Automakers have argued that the current requirements would have cost the industry billions of dollars and raised vehicle prices due to the cost of developing the necessary technology. 

California has now sued the Trump administration more than 30 times on topics including immigration and health care policy. Brown, who has made fighting climate change a core of his policy and political platform, said the state's fights with Washington over climate are the most essential. 

"If we follow the Pruitt-Trump path, we follow our way off the path to disaster," he said. 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining California are 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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