May 1 (UPI) -- A coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday over Trump administration efforts to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.
The move comes one month after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans to revise standards for cars and light trucks. Just before he left office, former President Barack Obama's administration increased the mandatory fuel economy for all domestic vehicles to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
Pruitt called the Obama administration's move politically motivated.
"Obama's EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn't comport with reality, and set the standards too high," he said.
But California and 16 other states disagree with the Trump administration. They sued the EPA to preserve the country's single-vehicle emission standard Tuesday.
"Enough is enough. We're not looking to pick a fight with the Trump Administration, but when the stakes are this high for our families' health and our economic prosperity, we have a responsibility to do what is necessary to defend them," he said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.
"The states joining today's lawsuit represent 140 million people who simply want cleaner and more efficient cars," California Gov. Jerry Brown added. "This phalanx of states will defend the nation's clean car standards to boost gas mileage and curb toxic air pollution."
Joining California in the lawsuit, which was filed in the District of Columbia, are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Howard Crystal, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental non-profit, welcomed news of the lawsuit.
"Trump's plan to reverse tailpipe pollution standards is a gift to the auto industry that will be paid for with our health," he said in an email to UPI. "As the federal government blows off its most basic duty to protect the American people, we applaud these states for taking up the fight."
The transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The average fuel economy during Obama's tenure was around 25 mpg. The average retail price of gas, meanwhile, is up about 15 percent from last year.
The Auto Alliance, an industry trade group, said the EPA's decision under Trump was the right move to make. As it stands, automakers are committed to improving fuel efficiency and transitioning to electric cars, which have a sticker price that could be off limits to some consumers.
"So, to ensure ongoing fuel economy improvement, the wisest course of action is to keep new vehicles affordable so more consumers can replace an older car with a new vehicle that uses much less fuel," the group stated.