Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that it wouldn’t immediately dismiss a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was brought by a handful of states and green groups over the EPA’s vehicle fuel economy rollback.
In April, the EPA’s former Administrator Scott Pruitt made a “final determination” to revise fuel economy rules that had been negotiated by the Obama Administration and automakers. A few months later, Pruitt resigned amid controversy about his spending habits, but the EPA’s Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler moved ahead with the rule reversal. Wheeler in August proposed freezing the progressively-more-stringent fuel economy standards.
But Wheeler’s proposed rule hasn’t been made final yet, so opponents can’t sue, according to The Hill. Instead, states led by California and green groups like the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have sued over the EPA’s April “final determination.”
The EPA asked the court to dismiss the case outright, arguing “that the determination is not a regulation that can be reviewed by a court,” writes The Hill. But Wednesday’s order asks both sides to argue the merits of the lawsuit. That gives the EPA’s opponents some time to continue their challenge.
Of course, the court may decline to hear the full case after reviewing the merits of the challengers’ lawsuit, but Martha Roberts, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the court’s decision. “We’re thankful that the DC Circuit has rejected the Trump EPA’s attempt to evade review of its fact-free justification for attacking the Clean Car Standards,” Roberts said in a statement.
The EPA has been trying to roll back the fuel economy standards, which regulate auto emissions out to 2025, since President Trump took office. The 2025 fuel economy rules put forth by Obama’s EPA were hashed out over months, with input from the auto industry. However, when President Trump took office, the Auto Alliance (which represents BMW Group, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Toyota, and others) began complaining that the rules were onerous and extremely costly.