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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Joins Lawsuit to Preserve California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards

November 15, 2019

Contact: Nicholas F. Persampieri, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3171


Attorney General T.J. Donovan joined a coalition of states to file a lawsuit opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to revoke portions of a waiver it previously granted to the State of California permitting the state to implement its greenhouse gas (GHG) and zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards. Today’s action, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, is part of the states’ ongoing fight to protect California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards. The California standards, which are more protective than those established by the federal government, are followed, in whole or in part, by 13 other states – including Vermont. They are a key part of state-level efforts to protect public health, clean air, and the environment.

“Protecting our environment is a Vermont value. The climate crisis is real, and we have to do what we can to address this crisis,” said Attorney General Donovan. “I am proud that Vermont is a national leader in the fight for clean air. Today’s filing continues that fight. We will remain strong in our opposition to any federal action that threatens Vermont’s ability to limit greenhouse gases entering our environment and especially when federal action threatens our chosen vehicle emission standards.”

The states’ filing also includes a protective petition that asks the D.C. Circuit to review a separate regulation by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is designed to preempt California’s GHG and ZEV standards. On September 20, 2019, Attorney General Donovan, along with 23 other attorneys general and two cities, filed a lawsuit in the District Court in Washington, D.C. alleging that NHTSA’s preemption regulation is unlawful and should be vacated. The federal government has moved to dismiss that case on the grounds that it belongs in D.C. Circuit Court, and briefing is ongoing. While the states maintain that the District Court has jurisdiction in this challenge, in the event the Court disagrees the protective portion of today’s petition preserves the states’ ability to challenge NHTSA’s preemption regulation.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California may obtain a waiver from the EPA to set its own vehicle emissions standards that are at least as protective as the federal government’s standards. Vermont and other states have the option to adopt California’s standards. Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted more than 100 waivers for California standards. In January 2012, California adopted its comprehensive Advanced Clean Cars Program for cars and light duty trucks for model years 2017 through 2025. The program combines the control of smog-causing pollutants and GHG emissions into a single coordinated package. The program improves air quality and curbs GHG while saving drivers money at the pump.

Joining Attorney General Donovan in today’s filing are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; along with the cities of Los Angeles and New York.

Last modified: November 15, 2019