April 4 (UPI) -- With threats of legal action, if necessary, U.S. state attorneys general said they would oppose an EPA effort to weaken auto fuels and emissions standards.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said this week that former President Barack Obama got it wrong when he called for an increase in fuel economy for all domestic vehicles to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Pruitt said Obama's action was politically charged and standards "are not appropriate."
Pruitt himself is facing ethics questions over a rental unit tied to a lobbying firm that represents the oil and gas business. He's been lauded as one of the Cabinet members most effective at pursuing President Donald Trump's strategy of energy dominance.
Pruitt defended the move by saying a new national standard would help automakers build cars that people can afford.
Vermont Attorney General Thomas J. Donovan, Jr., and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said they'd join a handful of states in opposing the EPA proposals. Donovan said existing standards are meant to save consumers money on fuel through improved efficiency, which would in turn lower emissions.
"For years, Vermont has been a leader on motor vehicle emission standards and let me be clear: Vermont is going to stay committed to clean air and we will take necessary steps to fight this rollback," he said in a statement.
The existing standards were drafted by the EPA under the Obama administration, the National Highway Transportation Authority, which regulates fuel economy, and the auto industry. California, in turn, was authorized to implement its own rules and 12 states, including Vermont, have adopted those standards.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the EPA launched an "attack" on improved greenhouse gas standards for automobiles.
"We're ready to file suit if needed to protect these critical standards and to fight the administration's war on our environment," he said in a statement Monday.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the rollback was illegal and said he too was considering legal action to block the EPA.
Automotive trade groups are supportive of Pruitt's proposal. The National Automobile Dealers Association said it would join the federal government in drafting "appropriately tailored" emissions and fuel economy standards.
In a letter to the EPA, the U.S. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said no conventional vehicle yet meets the target set by Obama in 2012 and, to get up to speed, the automotive industry would need to spend about $200 billion to comply with the rules.