SPRINGFIELD — California’s ability to regulate the pollution limits of cars and light trucks should not be limited by the federal government, Illinois’ top lawyer argued in a joint court filing Friday, because those standards positively impact the health of his constituents.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined a group of 22 other states, the District of Columbia and two cities in suing the federal government after it moved Thursday to revoke the most populous state’s ability to set stricter emission specifications than those required by President Donald Trump’s administration.
The lawsuit is testing the waters for how federal and state powers will be weighed when setting environmental policies to combat climate change. It was filed the same day as the Global Climate Strike, a march in more than 150 countries to urge political leaders to take action on global warming.
Raoul wrote in the court document he joined the coalition because he has “an obligation to represent the interests of the people so as to ensure a healthful environment for all the citizens of the State.”
By limiting California’s authority to dictate strong emissions standards of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the federal government would effectively be increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the lawsuit. That would “contribute to and exacerbate the ongoing and future impacts of climate change” in the states that submitted the complaint.
The effects of climate change include, the attorneys general wrote, deterioration of the state’s infrastructure, parks, agriculture sector and tourism industry. That would likely cause a drop in the amount of tax revenue those states could collect. Additionally, air quality would decay, causing public health programs to spend more, they added.
“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,” Raoul said in a news release.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys general also argue the federal government’s decision to revoke California’s regulation ability impacts their capability to meet air quality goals.
In January 2019, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order enrolling Illinois into the U.S. Climate Alliance, which, in part, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 to 28% of the levels from 2005. According to the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, it is on track to meet that goal.
“When the federal government is actually taking us backward on efforts to combat the climate crisis, states must act,” Pritzker said in a press release Friday. “ ... I look forward to building on that progress as we put Illinois on a path toward 100% clean and renewable energy.”
Also on the lawsuit against the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, the city of Los Angeles and the city of New York.