Things are changing fast in the auto industry, as strict emissions regulations are put in place around the globe that aim to curtail the use of internal combustion engines. And while several major automakers have made their future electric vehicle plans well known at this point, lawmakers in the United States are leaning into their past convictions. In response to a Trump Administration decision to suspend regulations aimed at increasing fines on automakers not complying with emission standards, 15 states have now sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The lawsuit was filed by the attorneys general of those 15 states, including California and New York, according to a report by Reuters. The case will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, following the NHTSA’s decision to rule alongside the former President last month. A ruling that the NHTSA said would alleviate future fines for U.S. automakers by up to $1 billion annually.
The Department of Transportation, which houses the NHTSA, has declined to comment on the legal filing. That said, the agency did say that it is “reviewing this and other recent rules for consistency with the environmental, equity and other policy directions of this new Administration.”
The move by the Trump Administration went against a congressional decision from 2015, which saw inflation adjustments made on the fines that automakers would have to pay for the first time since 1997. Back then, the fines were raised to $5.50 per 0.1 mpg a vehicle uses in excess of the federal standard. That 1997 decision was the first time that the penalty was adjusted for inflation since 1975, when it sat at $5.00. The 2015 vote adjusted the price up to $14 per .01 mpg over the limit.
The states aren’t the only ones taking action against the NHTSA and the Department of Transportation. Last month, both the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council sued the agency over the same Trump Administration decision.
This all comes as President Joe Biden has ordered an official review of his predecessors emissions standards rollback, in keeping with his campaign promises. More specifically, President Biden wants a review of the decision barring the State of California from setting its own emissions standards, as it has done for the past few decades.
Once this case lands in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, we will have a better idea as to how this will shake out. Automakers tend to ride the fence when it comes to politics, as one might expect from multinational corporations. As emission regulations continue to tighten around the globe, the issues taking place here in the States might become the least of their worries. Be sure to check back with MC&T for more updates as the story progresses.