Salt Lake City Joins Amicus Brief in Objection to EPA and DOT Vehicle Emissions Rule

Just One Day After Biden Issues a Directive to Undo the Rule

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Salt Lake City joined 14 other city and county governments from across the country in signing an amicus brief against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) and U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule that fails to reduce dangerous air pollution and address climate change, increasing health and safety risks for Americans. 

“Our city is an active participant in the fight against climate change,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “By signing this amicus brief we join a collective effort committed to speaking up against a rule that is harmful to the wellbeing of our communities and doesn’t bolster our efforts for better air quality.”

The amicus brief’s filing coincides with President Joe Biden’s first set of environmental and climate executive orders, coming just one day after a directive for the Biden-Harris administration’s incoming EPA Administrator to revoke the SAFE rule and reinstate and strengthen ambitious fuel economy standards that will spur cleaner cars throughout the U.S. auto market.

Almost two-thirds of the U.S. population is represented by networks that are speaking out on the dangers of this weak car’s pollution rule today. Salt Lake City and the other signatories are home to over 10 million Americans and are joined on the brief by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities who, together, cover more than 19,000 cities, villages and towns across the country and a collective population of 218 million. 

Moreover, the brief supports a petition for review of the SAFE Vehicles Rule filed in May 2020 and joined by 20 states, two cities and three air quality management districts. 

The SAFE Vehicles rule is the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era changes to the CAFE standards, which set required fuel efficiency improvements for new cars and light-duty trucks. The Obama administration’s clean car standards were predicted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 570 million metric tons per year by 2030, equivalent to shutting down 140 coal plants for a whole year. The amicus brief points out that the SAFE rule results in more costs to consumers and frustrates city efforts to address climate change and advance environmental justice. 

The SAFE Vehicles rule would result in up to 1,000 more premature deaths per year compared to the Obama regulations due to the associated increase in air pollution, which exacerbates respiratory illness. This hurts our most vulnerable communities, as low-income households and minority communities are more likely to live closer to power plants and highways. In addition, there is mounting evidence linking long-term exposure to air pollution with a greater risk of contracting respiratory illnesses, including the most severe impacts of COVID-19, which will only create a larger burden on our healthcare systems and reduce their capacity to tackle future health crises. 

The brief, authored by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, makes four principal legal arguments on the shortcomings of the SAFE Vehicles rule: 

  1. EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to consider the need to reduce transportation emissions to address climate change
  2. EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously by disregarding the Clean Air Act’s purpose
  3. The agencies failed to adequately consider local governments’ reliance interests
  4. The agencies’ environmental justice analysis is arbitrary and capricious

Read the full brief.

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