By Anna M. Phillips

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — A coalition of states led by California filed a lawsuit Friday against the Trump administration, challenging its decision to revoke a rule that empowers the state to set tougher car emissions standards than those required by the federal government.

The lawsuit seeks to defend California and the 13 other states that follow its car pollution rules from the administration’s latest effort to loosen environmental regulations. It maintains that the special waiver the state has relied on for the past 50 years to set its own standards is not only lawful, but essential to protecting California’s air quality and preventing the worst effects of climate change.

Twenty-three state attorneys general joined the lawsuit, as did the cities of New York and Los Angeles. The list includes states that have adopted California’s more stringent car emissions rules, such as New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Oregon. It also names several states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina — that voted for Trump in 2016.

The administration’s plan to revoke the waiver is likely to set off years of legal battles that could eventually land at the U.S. Supreme Court. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday that the administration was attempting to resurrect previously unsuccessful legal arguments to justify its position.

“Two courts have already upheld California’s emissions standards,” Becerra said in a statement. “Yet, the Administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health.”

The lawsuit, California v. Chao, was filed against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency on a proposal to weaken fuel efficiency standards put in place under the Obama administration.

These regulations require automakers to build increasingly efficient vehicles so that by 2025 the nation’s cars and trucks would average more than 50 miles per gallon. Under Trump, the agencies have proposed freezing mileage targets at about 37 miles per gallon for cars after 2020.