The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Thousands of Cities and Counties Are Fighting Trump's Fuel Efficiency Rollback

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Trump administration’s rollback of clean vehicle regulations last month is going about as well as expected. Which is to say it isn’t going well, and a growing number of people who are pissed are fighting to stop it. Now you can add groups representing more than 3,400 cities and counties to that list.

State attorneys general have already sued the administration over implementing what they view as an unlawful rollback of fuel efficiency standards. On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and more than a dozen other municipalities asked to join that suit by filing an amicus brief in support of clean car standards established under Obama.


Their ranks includes cities big and small from New York to Ann Arbor, Michigan. A number of cities and counties opposing the fuel economy rollback are also part of various climate lawsuits against Big Oil. By filing the motion, they’re asking the D.C. Circuit Court to let them show all the ways climate change is already hurting their infrastructure, public health, water resources, and more.

“Local governments are on the front lines of climate impacts,” Michael Burger, the executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, which filed the brief on behalf of the groups, told Earther. “When a storm hits or a heat wave strikes or land is being lost, the first entity to be directly impacted is the locality where the event is taking place.”


Burger said the Sabin Center has done something similar for cities in support of the Clean Power Plan, but he couldn’t recall any municipalities filing briefs in favor of wiping out climate regulations. That’s in part because many cities have been aggressively pursuing climate policies of their own to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes already affecting them. But while reducing emissions from sources like buildings are well within cities’ scopes as are improving access to public transit and bike lanes, cutting auto emissions is something that requires the federal government to do its part.

And the Trump administration’s proposed rollback is the exact opposite of doing its part. By one estimate, the rollback would be like putting 30 new coal plants on the grid. Carbon emissions from cars would 11 percent higher than if Obama-era standards were kept in place along with the California waiver that 12 other states also use to set their standards according to analysts at Energy Innovation.

“Withdrawal of the Clean Car Standards would hinder local governments’ work to slow and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” the cities’ and groups’ said in their petition to join the suit. “It would also render their adaptation efforts less effective. Additionally, it could make their efforts to purchase clean fleet vehicles more expensive and reduce options for low and zero emission vehicles.”

Right now, the Trump administration is looking to get the whole suit dismissed. Burger said that it could take months for a decision to come down, but cities are ready to be a part of it as it goes forward.


“This is part of that broader story of cities who bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, but are continuing to forge ahead with plans to combat greenhouse gas emissions and thinking of a variety of different ways to get involved,” Burger said.