EDF Will Sue EPA for Failure to Release Key Documents Related to Clean Cars Rollback

May 8, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – May 8, 2020) Environmental Defense Fund will sue EPA if the agency does not does not release documents related to the rollback of America’s popular and successful Clean Car Standards.

EDF sent a formal Notice of Intent to Sue to EPA and Administrator Andrew Wheeler today.

“The Clean Car Standards protect human health and the environment, and save families money. The Trump administration’s rollback will cause more than 18,000 premature deaths, as well as more asthma attacks and other lung problems, and will cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars at the gas pump,” said EDF lead attorney Peter Zalzal. “The Trump administration’s withholding of these documents is highly irregular and undermines the American people’s right to know what their government is doing – especially in light of the profound impact this rollback will have on human health and climate security.”

The documents in question were first revealed in a letter from U.S. Senator Tom Carper to EPA’s Inspector General. They reportedly show that EPA career staff were blocked from even seeing the replacement rule for the Clean Car Standards – a rule that the agency is supposed to have co-authored. The documents also reportedly show that when EPA career staff were allowed to offer technical comments, they were instructed to do so in hardcopy, in an apparent attempt to avoid legally required public release.

The Clean Air Act requires that EPA add all interagency review materials to the public rulemaking docket so the public can see them. While some of these materials are now in the docket, the documents described in Senator Carper’s letter are missing.

EPA’s failure to docket key materials is the latest development in a rulemaking process that was rife with other errors and irregularities. The omission is especially notable because of other documents that EPA has made public, which indicate that administration officials believe the rollback is legally vulnerable. The public documents include a White House email transmitting interagency comments that states, “The legal justification is lacking in actual justification for the Final Rule. It does not do enough to explain why 1.5 is the right stringency level as a matter of fact or why it is proper as a matter of law.” (Document docketed here, titled “3-19-2020 Interagency Comments.”)

If EPA does not disclose the documents mentioned in Senator Carper’s letter, EDF can file suit in 60 days in federal district court. EDF has also said that, in addition to this lawsuit over the withholding of critical documents, it intends to take legal action over the rollback of the Clean Car Standards in the near future.

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