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The EPA Has Some Explaining to Do If It Wants to Weaken the Clean Car Standards

Statement of Scott Nelson, Attorney, Public Citizen

Note: Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in State of California v. EPA – dismissing cases brought by Public Citizen, other advocacy organizations and the state of California that challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) April 2018 revision of its “mid-term evaluation” of its clean car standards. The court held that there was no final agency action to review, because the effect of the revision was to initiate a rulemaking.

The main takeaway from this decision is that the EPA cannot use its revised mid-term evaluation to escape a full justification of any change to its clean car standards. So the EPA has some explaining to do if it wants to set aside its previous, carefully considered view that its existing clean car standards were appropriate.

The court’s finding that the revised mid-term evaluation was not final is based largely on its conclusion that the revised evaluation neither changed the existing standards, nor erased the earlier evaluation that those standards were appropriate and the extensive record on which that evaluation was based. Thus, if the EPA goes through with its proposal to gut its clean car standards, the agency needs to fully explain why it disregarded the previous evaluation and the facts underlying it, including the record developed in the original mid-term evaluation.