Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Administration continues to pursue anti-environmental agenda in the midst of a pandemic

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit today challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to roll back federal emissions standards for cars and light-duty trucks.

Ferguson joined 27 other states and municipalities in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lawsuit asserts that the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back the emissions standards violates the federal Clean Air Act, among other statutes.

The administration claims the stricter emissions standards are no longer viable for the auto industry, despite the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) itself determining in 2017 that they were.

In their final analysis, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) themselves determined that the new relaxed standards will increase air pollution and cause more air pollution-related deaths, as well as increased consumer costs due to driving less fuel-efficient vehicles.

“As climate change grips our world, we should be strengthening emissions standards, not rolling them back,” Ferguson said. “Despite our current public health crisis, the Trump Administration is going full steam ahead on its anti-environmental agenda. I won’t allow this administration to play politics with the air we breathe.”

“At a time when the full focus of our state is on protecting people from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unconscionable that the federal government is still trying to push through illegal, ill-considered rollbacks to clean vehicle standards, dirtying our air, risking our health, accelerating climate change and hurting consumers’ pocket-books,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I thank the Attorney General and his team for holding the federal government accountable for these actions.”

“The so-called ‘Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule’ is a combination of bad policy and bad faith,” said Laura Watson, director of the Washington Department of Ecology. “The rule is built on shaky science and risky assumptions. We can’t afford this costly detour when it comes to protecting the future of our state.”

In 2012, the EPA, together with NHTSA, worked with stakeholders, including the auto industry, to set increasingly stringent standards for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. These rules apply to cars and light-duty trucks from model years 2017 through 2025.

Over the lifetimes of the vehicles sold between 2017 and 2025, the standards are expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2 billion metric tons — the equivalent of the annual emissions of 422 million cars currently on the road — and save approximately 4 billion barrels of oil.

The Trump Administration first signaled its desire to roll back the standards in 2018, when then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced, citing no new evidence, that the standards that his own agency had deemed viable the previous year were no longer achievable for the auto industry.

The administration published its final rules rolling back the emissions standards April 30, 2020.

Ferguson asserts that the new rules violate the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy & Conservation Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Assistant Attorney General Emily Nelson is leading the case for Washington.

Coordinated effort to roll back emissions standards

In addition to rolling back federal emission standards, the Trump Administration has systematically attacked other regulations meant to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

The Trump Administration has attempted to block Washington and other states from setting more stringent vehicle emissions standards. The federal Clean Air Act allows California to set stricter emissions standards for vehicles sold within its borders as long as it obtains a waiver from the EPA. It then allows other states, like Washington, to adopt those stricter standards. Washington, 11 states and the District of Columbia have adopted more strict emissions standards.

In September of 2019, Ferguson joined 23 other attorneys general and several cities to file a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s decision to issue a regulation declaring that federal law prevents states from setting more stringent vehicle emission standards than the federal government.

Two months later, Ferguson also joined a coalition of 23 states, Washington, D.C., and the cities of New York and Los Angeles in a separate lawsuit to challenge the federal government’s decision to revoke California’s waiver.

This process has been in place for more than five decades — California obtained its first waiver in 1968.

Ferguson and 13 other attorneys general have also challenged the Trump Administration’s attempt to reduce the penalties imposed on automakers that fail to meet fuel economy standards by more than half. The penalties are an important tool to ensure car manufacturers continue to improve fuel efficiency in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants. With the fines reduced, some manufacturers could simply roll the penalties into the cost of doing business rather than complying with the standards.

Ferguson has now filed 63 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. Ferguson has 28 legal victories against the Trump Administration and one defeat. Eighteen of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Media contact:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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