AG Raoul joins suit backing Calif. on car emissions

Bad precedent could affect Clean Energy Jobs Act

Attorney General Kwame Raoul is defending states’ rights in a California environmental law, which could have an effect on Illinois’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Attorney General Kwame Raoul is defending states’ rights in a California environmental law, which could have an effect on Illinois’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The Illinois attorney general has joined a suit defending California’s strict auto-emissions standards against federal attempts to undermine them in a case that could have ramifications for the state’s Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Friday that he was joining 24 other states and the cities of New York and Los Angeles in filing suit against attempts by the Trump administration to undercut what’s known as California’s Advanced Clean Car Standards. According to a news release put out by the Office of the Attorney General, the suit is led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and “challenges the federal government’s unlawful regulation designed to preempt California’s greenhouse-gas emissions and Zero-Emission Vehicle standards.”

“This reckless action by the federal government is unlawful, irresponsible, and ignores the science and proven benefits of the Clean Car Standards,” Raoul said in a statement. “I simply will not tolerate the federal government’s actions to refute scientific facts and allow climate change to go unchecked, all while putting our environment and public health at risk.”

Gov. Pritzker supported the move, issuing a statement saying: “I applaud Attorney General Raoul for pushing back against President Trump’s attempt to roll back these common-sense public-health and environmental protections. When the federal government is actually taking us backward on efforts to combat the climate crisis, states must act.”

Pritzker cited his own role in joining the U.S. Climate Alliance in his first weeks in office, as well as repealing the Kyoto Protocol Act, allowing the state to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. He also pointed to $140 million allotted for renewable-energy projects in the $45 billion capital plan passed this spring by the General Assembly. “I look forward to building on that progress as we put Illinois on a path toward 100 percent clean and renewable energy,” he added.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “is attempting to declare the California greenhouse-gas and ZEV standards preempted under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.” It adds that the NHTSA “is relying on arguments that have been repeatedly rejected by multiple courts” and “is overstepping the authority granted by Congress and ignoring Congress’s repeated preservation of California’s authority.”

California has led the way in regulating auto emissions, and it’s so large a part of the national economy that it tends to drive automakers to design reforms that benefit all states and other nations. Environmentalists lined up to support the suit.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center joins Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul in condemning the Trump administration’s latest misguided action,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The continued war against sensible actions under the Clean Air Act endangers our climate and public health in the Great Lakes region. The Trump administration is undercutting California’s and other states’ long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act to implement effective standards to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution from tailpipes in order to protect clean air and our public health.”

“President Trump is trying to take us backward on clean car standards, which will mean dirtier air and lost jobs for Illinoisans,” said Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “We appreciate Attorney General Kwame Raoul for condemning this federal rollback and taking a step to combat climate-change emissions in Illinois.”

“Pollution from cars in Illinois contributes to the smog and soot pollution that threatens the lives of those with asthma and other respiratory problems, and the climate change that threatens our communities and agricultural economy with increased flooding, storm damage, and droughts,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter. “We applaud Attorney General Raoul for standing up to Trump’s rollback and fighting for Illinois’s freedom to protect the health of our communities by choosing the cleaner cars of the future, which would mean much cleaner air, savings at the pump, and supporting quality jobs for auto workers building these new technologies right here in Illinois.”

Just last week, Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, warned of federal attempts to overrule states’ rights on issues like reproductive rights and the environment, suggesting they’re nothing less than President Trump’s means of forcing an authoritarian form of government on the nation.

The Citizens Utility Board warned Tuesday that such a precedent could have an effect on Illinois’s attempts to pass and enact the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the primary focus of last week’s Illinois Youth Climate Strike marches across the state. CUB charged that the Trump administration’s moves to undermine California’s auto-emissions standards “just reinforces the urgency of states taking their own steps to work for a future with clean, affordable energy. That's why in Illinois it's vital we fight for the Clean Energy Jobs Act in the fall veto session in October” in the General Assembly.