WASHINGTON — A U.S. appeals court overseeing a lawsuit by Republican-led states involving California’s emissions standards for big trucks has granted permission to a group of Democratic-led states, cities and environmental organizations to intervene in the case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Monday, July 24, ruled that 18 states, three cities and several environmental groups could weigh in on a consolidated lawsuit challenging a federal waiver that lets California set stricter emission limits for trucks than the national standard.
The lawsuit was filed in June against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had granted the waiver, by trucking industry groups alongside 19 Republican-led states and others. The EPA’s waiver allows the nation’s most populous state to impose stronger emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, including by requiring manufacturers to increase sales of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles over the coming decade.
The challengers claim the waiver allows California to essentially set national environmental policies in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal sovereignty doctrine, a legal theory that generally limits legislation that subjects states to unequal burdens.
The Democratic-led states and cities – including California, Illinois and New York City – had asked to intervene in June, alongside groups such as the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity. They claimed the waiver is an important tool needed to fight climate change-causing emissions in the transportation sector, which is among the top greenhouse gas producing sectors.
A spokesperson for the EPA, which has not substantially responded to the lawsuit in court, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokespersons for the attorneys general of California, which led the Democratic states’ request to intervene, and Iowa, which leads the Republican states in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Robert Henneke, an attorney with the Texas Public Policy Foundation representing the trucking group the Western States Trucking Association and others in the lawsuit, said Monday that “this is going to be a nationally significant case.”
California’s waiver was granted through a provision of the Clean Air Act that was written as a result of severe air pollution problems in the state at the time the law was written. While the waiver does not allow California to set a national standard, other states can opt-in.
Scott Hochberg, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said Monday that California has a “well-established” right to the waiver under the law.