Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA

In 2012, EPA adopted greenhouse gas emissions standards for automobiles covering model years 2017-2025, and NHTSA promulgated corresponding fuel economy standards for model years 2017-21. The standards call for substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and commensurate increases in fuel economy. The EPA standards also required the agency to conduct a “midterm evaluation” to determine no later than April 2018 whether the standards for model years 2022-25 remained appropriate. In January 2017, EPA issued the final results of its midterm evaluation, concluding that the standards were appropriate, as the emissions reductions they called for were technologically feasible and could be achieved without harm to the automobile industry or consumers. In April 2018, however, EPA  reversed course and withdrew the final 2017 final determination and replaced it with another purporting to find the existing standards inappropriate. EPA and NHTSA then launched a new rulemaking aimed at replacing the existing standards with new ones calling for substantially lower cuts in emissions and increased in fuel efficiency. Public Citizen and a coalition of other groups sought review of the withdrawal of the 2017 midterm evaluation and its replacement with an evaluation that lacks technical supporting data and is inadequately explained and justified. The government moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction. The challengers opposed dismissal, and a motions panel of the court referred the motion to the merits panel and directed the parties to proceed with briefing on the merits.  The case was consolidated for briefing and argument with a case brought by California and other states.  On October 25, 2019, the D.C. Circuit dismissed the case on the ground that the EPA’s action was not final.  The court emphasized that EPA’s action had no effect on its ultimate burden of justifying any change in the clean car standards.