Groups File Brief with D.C. Circuit Opposing Trump Administration’s “Indefensible” Clean Cars Rollback

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) A dozen of the nation’s largest public health, consumer, and environmental groups today presented the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia with a detailed and substantial case showing why the Trump administration’s rollback of the Clean Car Standards is unlawful.

The groups filed their opening brief in the lawsuit against the rollback, calling it “indefensible” and saying it will “gravely endanger public health, harm national energy security, cost consumers money, and lack legal or factual support.” (Brief, page 1)

The brief was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Public Citizen, Inc., Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists. It argues that the Trump administration’s rollback is arbitrary and capricious, and will:

  • Increase climate-changing pollution by nearly one billion metric tons
  • Increase oil consumption by nearly two billion barrels
  • Cost drivers at least $175 billion to purchase that additional fuel

The brief also discusses the numerous technical and economic errors the Trump administration used to justify the rollback.

“Even the Agencies’ own economic analysis (which is rife with arbitrary assumptions and obvious, major computational mistakes), does not claim the Rollback’s benefits outweigh its costs … Both the Rollback and EPA’s determination that its prior standards were ‘inappropriate’ are irredeemably flawed and must be vacated.” (Brief, page 2 and 3)

The groups are part of a broad coalition opposing the rollback of the Clean Car Standards. Twenty-three states, several cities and air quality management districts, and dozens of major businesses are also challenging the rollback in court. A bipartisan group of 24 governors urged the Trump administration not to proceed with the rollback, and an American Lung Association poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans support the Clean Car Standards.

America needs real leadership to reduce climate and air pollution from the transportation sector. As President-elect Biden takes office next week, there is an opportunity to move forward swiftly with broadly supported and transformative standards that substantially reduce this harmful pollution.


“Rolling back the Clean Car Standards will cause more than 18,000 premature deaths by mid-century, as well as hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and other lung problems. The rollback will make climate change worse, cost American families money at the gas pump, and the Trump administration’s own analysis found that with it we’ll lose 60,000 jobs. We need clean cars for a better future, and this rollback sends us speeding in the wrong direction.” – Alice Henderson, senior attorney with Environmental Defense Fund
"The legal and technical support for the Trump administration's dangerous rollback of clean car standards is as sound as a rusty jalopy. We would be happy to argue this case in court, but it might never reach that point. The Biden administration should take one hard look at this shoddy legal and technical work and throw this rule onto the scrap heap of history." – David Doniger, a lawyer for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
“The briefs we and the States filed meticulously and unambiguously show that the Trump rollback is lawless and dangerous to the climate and public health. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to restore and strengthen clean car standards to save lives, save consumers money at the pump, and help avoid catastrophic climate change.” – Rob Michaels, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center
“Reversing our clean car standards was the Trump Administration’s most egregious rollback, attacking our nation’s strongest climate policy, and we have used every tool possible to defend the standards over the past four years. We are confident that the courts will invalidate these illegal rollbacks and the Biden Administration will get us back on track to adopt bold, life-saving standards.” – Joanne Spalding, Chief Climate Counsel, Sierra Club
"The diluted federal clean car standards rule stifles progress toward pollution-free cars and is unlawful. It fails to address the climate crisis and the agencies did not adequately consider the air pollution impacts. This rollback endangers our health and our climate." – Morgan Folger, director of Environment America's Destination: Zero Carbon campaign
“The administration’s case for this final rule relies on bad legal arguments and embarrassing technical errors. In reality, this rule leaves us worse off, imposing unnecessary costs on drivers at the pump and creating more climate-endangering pollution. At every turn, this administration has shown that they simply can’t justify their push for weaker vehicle standards.” – Dave Cooke, Senior Vehicles Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists
“Trump’s ‘dirty cars’ rule worsens the nation’s leading source of carbon dioxide, feeding a perilous cycle of storms, fires, floods and droughts that threatens people and wildlife from coast to coast. With this filing, we’ve taken the next step in fighting this reckless, industry-serving rule and confronting the climate crisis.” – Katherine Hoff, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute
“Clean cars are essential to a clean Chesapeake Bay. Allowing dirtier vehicles on the road undermines efforts to restore the Bay and makes the health of the watershed and its residents more vulnerable to climate change and harmful air pollution. Our brief is an important step towards moving past this unlawful rollback and to a future with cleaner cars throughout the watershed.” – Ariel Solaski, Staff Litigation Attorney, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
“The Administration claimed this rollback benefits consumers even while conceding it will cost them billions of dollars; said it will result in maximum achievable fuel economy even while acknowledging auto manufacturers can do better; said it fulfills Clean Air Act mandates even while admitting it will pump tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere and cause hundreds of premature deaths; and dubbed it the ‘SAFE’ rule even after its claimed safety benefits fell apart in the rulemaking process. Only in a through-the-looking-glass world could this rule pass muster.” – Scott Nelson, Public Citizen Litigation Group
Lisa Caruso 90x110

Lisa Caruso

Washington, D.C. Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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