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Sierra Club Sues Trump for Delay of Fuel Standard Penalties

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The Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed a petition for review of the Trump Administration’s decision to unlawfully delay an Obama rule that increased penalties for automakers that don’t meet the fuel economy standards. Last year, to account for inflation, the Obama Administration, under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration increased the penalty rate from $5.50 to $14 per tenth of a mile per gallon, as required by Congress under the Inflation Adjustment Act. The transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. With lower fines, automakers can easily manufacture cars with lower fuel efficiency by simply paying a small fine; higher penalties, on the other hand, encourage compliance with more stringent fuel economy standards, which in turn helps decrease carbon and conventional air pollution. At the same time they are trying to lower penalties, the Trump Administration is trying to roll back the tailpipe emissions standards.

 

“We are going to Court against automakers trying to cheat the system to pollute more into our air. We need higher fines for automakers that do not comply with the law because it puts people’s health at risk. These standards are important because New Jersey has some of the worst air quality in the nation, with most of the pollution coming from automobiles. If vehicles have better fuel economy, it will not only reduce air pollution, but help people save people money on gas, while promoting jobs and a green economy. This is part of the Trump Administration’s rollback of environmental protections to take care of Big Oil and automakers,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It is ironic that while we are going into National Electric Vehicle Week, we have to go to Court against Trump’s attack on our lungs. What makes this even worse is that we are seeing Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma devastate communities because of the increasing threat of climate change. The more we move toward cleaner vehicles, the less we are held hostage to severe storms because they release less greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate impacts.”

 

In March, President Trump announced his plan to rollback federal regulations on pollution and climate change. His orders re-opened a formal review to rollback the tailpipe regulations under the Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standard set by the Obama Administration. The tailpipe pollution regulations were among President Obama’s major initiatives to reduce global warming. They would have forced automakers to build passenger cars that achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, compared with about 36 miles per gallon today. Eventually achieving those targets would have drastically reduced the nation’s vehicle tailpipe pollution, which accounts for about a third of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions.

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“What Trump is doing is taking the side of the oil industry and some in the car industry who rather make more profits selling giant SUVs than fuel efficient cars. By not holding them accountable to increasing fuel efficiency, there are really no rules in place. First he rolled back fuel efficiency standards and now he is suspending higher fines to make it easier to pollute more air. Both these threats are a double threat because the emissions coming out of our tailpipes will be dirtier and auto makers won’t have any incentive to make electric and hybrid vehicles. By rolling back emissions standards and eliminating fines, it will mean we will spend more money at the pump because vehicles are less fuel efficient, it will require us to buy more gasoline. This will then raise the price which be a double whammy on our wallets,” said Jeff Tittel.

  

In 2016, U.S. EV sales rose 37 percent over 2015, with well over half a million Americans now driving plug-in cars. According to the American Lung Association, every year, pollution from passenger vehicles collectively costs the 10 ZEV states about $24 billion in health, including 220,000 lost work days, 109,000 asthma exacerbations, hundreds of thousands of other respiratory health impacts, and 2,580 premature deaths. In New Jersey, the Zero Electric Vehicle (ZEV) program saves our state $4.6 billion in health care costs associated with smog and soot pollution caused by passenger vehicles.

 

“Now with National Electric Vehicle Week coming next week, we should be driving New Jersey forward with more electric vehicles. Electric vehicles not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars, but can help stop future drilling, pipelines, and oil bomb trains,” said Jeff Tittel. “We need charging stations at every corner of the New Jersey because it will actually help reduce pollution. Instead, the Christie Administration has driven us in the wrong direction. Our Governor has refused to join the EV compact and failed to pass legislation to promote EVs and their infrastructure. The electric vehicle compact would helped put 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road. The eight states will enjoy the creation of thousands of jobs, provide infrastructure around the states for EVs, and allow them to leaders in EV technology. New Jersey is clearly missing out on all of these benefits so we need the next Governor to take the lead on electric vehichles.”

 

Each year, American passenger vehicles spew upwards of three trillion tons of carbon pollution into the air by burning about 121 billion gallons of gasoline. A fully electric vehicle uses electricity to power a battery. This means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, and no internal combustion engine. Thanks to federal, state and industry rebates and tax credits, decreasing prices in EV technology, and the much cheaper price of electricity vs. gasoline, the cost of owning and operating an electric vehicle is now notably lower than that of many conventional vehicles. There are currently more than 20 fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles available at US dealerships.

 

 “Trump is siding with Ford and GMC to move us backwards, which threatens our health and environment. Without these fines, auto makers won’t have any incentive to make electric and hybrid vehicles. Instead of embracing the future of clean cars like plugins whose sales have tripled and are getting cheaper, Trump is preventing economic growth and green jobs,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Trump’s actions are clearly an attack on electric vehicles so some companies in the auto industry can continue to sell gas guzzlers like the GMC Denali and the Ford Expedition. That is why we are fighting back so we can move forward with clean car technology and fuel efficiency.”

 

The New Jersey Sierra Club is organizing three National Electric Vehicle Week Events this year in Trenton, Atlantic City, and Andover. For more information, please contact Toni Granato at toni.granato@sierraclub.org.

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