States Sue Administration Over Clean Transportation Rule

A coalition of eight states has filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to suspend a federal clean transportation rule.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, parallels litigation filed by NRDC, Clean Air Carolina, and US PIRG in late July. The full list of plaintiffs includes California, the California Air Resources Board, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota by and through Minnesota DOT, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

The lawsuit contends that by delaying and suspending a Greenhouse Gas Performance Measure for the national highway system, the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to provide notice and opportunity to comment on the suspension before it took effect. The states’ lawsuit makes substantially similar arguments to those in the NRDC litigation.

The Greenhouse Gas Measure was promulgated under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act and would require state departments of transportation to benchmark and measure on-road greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within their jurisdictions, and set locally appropriate targets for GHG emissions reductions on national highways. MAP-21 requires the Federal Highway Administration to set goals in several performance areas to ensure the most efficient use of federal funds. The goal of the measure is to incentivize use of transportation strategies—such as bus rapid transit and commuter rail—that would reduce GHG emissions.

The states in the case seek a declaration that the Trump Administration’s delay and suspension of the GHG Measure without notice and comment violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), and an injunction ordering defendants to end the suspension of the GHG Measure.

These states are filing this litigation because they are seeking to protect their interests in protecting their citizens’ health and welfare, and in safeguarding their citizens from the adverse effects of climate change.  

The government’s response to the states’ complaint will be due in late November.

These lawsuits challenge an unlawful move by the Trump White House. Transportation is the leading source of carbon pollution in the United States and limiting pollution from our transportation system is a cornerstone of making our air cleaner, improving health for all Americans, and fighting climate change.

The simple but profound premise behind our original advocacy to secure a national GHG performance measure is that transportation plans must be more accountable for performance outcomes, including carbon pollution. This premise was at the center of the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law (SB 375) California passed in 2008, which has led to substantial health, safety and climate benefits for communities across the state. We are pleased, once again, to see local governments standing up to defend our climate policies in the absence of federal leadership. 

About the Authors

Amanda Eaken

Director of Transportation, American Cities Climate Challenge

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