Judge Overturns Biden Admin’s Climate Rule for States Cutting Vehicle Emissions

Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

A federal court has put the brakes on the Biden administration’s push for states to cut vehicle emissions, dealing a blow to the White House’s climate change agenda. In a late Monday decision, a Kentucky judge ruled that the Biden administration overstepped its authority in mandating that states track and reduce greenhouse gasses from cars and trucks.

The sweeping verdict represents a victory for over 20 Republican-led states that challenged the climate regulations on highways, arguing they infringed on state sovereignty. With this ruling, the judge slammed the brakes on what he called the “administrative ventriloquism” of the federal agencies behind the rules.

FHWA Regulations Overstep Authority

The recent ruling determined the FHWA overreached by attempting to force states into regulating vehicle emissions.

Source: AASHTO

Judge Beaton stated in his decision that the regulations “exceed the FHWA’s statutory authority” and are “arbitrary and capricious.” Rather than temporarily blocking the rule during litigation as requested, Beaton vacated it immediately.

Separation of Power Concerns

Beaton expressed concerns over the separation of power if the FHWA permitted state policies. He wrote that allowing the agency to “Shove national greenhouse-gas policy into the mouths of uncooperative state Departments of Transportation” would “corrupt the separation of sovereigns central to our lasting and vibrant system of federalism.”

Source: LinkedIn

According to Beaton, neither the Constitution nor administrative law grants the FHWA authority to control state governments.

Flexibility Promised But Not Delivered

When announcing the regulations in November 2021, the FHWA said they provide states flexibility in setting emissions targets.

Source: Shutterstock/NicoElNino

However, the 22 plaintiff states and industry groups argued that the rules did the opposite, limiting state efforts and requiring conformity to federal goals.

Victory for States and Taxpayers

The ruling is a win for states’ rights and taxpayers concerned over costs from new mandates. Kentucky AG Coleman called it a “victory in court” against the Biden administration’s “radical environmental agenda” that makes “no sense in the commonwealth.”

Source: 123rf/bandit2523

Many see the regulations as an overreach that fails to consider regional differences in priorities and economic realities.

Flexibility or Federal Coercion?

The FHWA claimed the rules provided states flexibility in setting emissions targets. However, states argued that the regulations did the opposite, restricting their authority and demanding conformity with White House priorities.

Source: Shutterstock/iQoncept

Beaton sided with the states, declaring the rules “arbitrary and capricious.” His ruling vacates the regulations immediately rather than simply blocking them during litigation.

Kentucky Led a Coalition of 22 States Challenging the Rule in Court

Kentucky took the lead in challenging the Biden administration’s push for states to cut vehicle emissions in court.

Source: Shutterstock/kwest

The state filed a lawsuit in December 2021, just a month after the FHWA finalized the regulations. Kentucky argued that the FHWA had overstepped its legal authority by attempting to force states to implement federal regulations.

Decision Marks Major Defeat for Biden’s Climate Agenda

The ruling by Judge Beaton is a significant blow to President Biden and his administration’s efforts to tackle climate change.

Source: Live Science

Overturning the regulations that required states to set targets for reducing vehicle emissions hampers the Biden administration’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030.

States Argued Rule Restricted Rather Than Supported State Efforts

The plaintiff argued that the climate rule imposed federal mandates on state transportation policy rather than providing flexibility.

Source: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

They contended that the regulations aimed to restrict state efforts by forcing them to conform to the Biden administration’s goals.

States Claim They Were Never Consulted

The states claimed they were not properly consulted when developing the rule. They said the FHWA failed to consider thousands of public comments opposing the action.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The agency also ignored concerns from state transportation officials about the rule’s impact.

Assertion of a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

The plaintiff states asserted the regulations adopted a one-size-fits-all approach that disregarded differences among states.

Source: Shutterstock/Mr.Yanukit

The rule demanded all states implement the same solutions to cut emissions rather than tailored policies suited to each state’s needs.

Commandeering of State Violation of States’ Rights

Most significantly, the states argued the climate rule violated their sovereignty by commandeering state policymaking authority.

Source: EPA

They said the Constitution prohibits federal agencies from co-opting states as mere administrative units to carry out federal directives.

Transportation Secretary Claimed Rule Provided Flexibility to States

When announcing the new rules in November, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg asserted that the regulations provide states flexibility in achieving climate goals.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, the 22 plaintiff states argued the rules did the opposite by restricting state efforts and mandating conformity with federal aims.

The New Rules Were Found To Be a Form of Coercion For Most States

However, Beaton found the rules illegally coerce states into advancing federal policy objectives. “Modern constitutional doctrine allows Congress to demand much from states, but it cannot commandeer or coerce the apparatus of state governments into mere administrative districts of the federal government,” he explained.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The FHWA has not yet announced whether it will appeal the decision. The ruling adds to legal woes facing other Biden administration climate rules, including limits on oil and gas production on public lands.

Ruling Vacates Rule Immediately Rather Than Just Blocking It

The decision to overturn the regulations was an abrupt one. Rather than issuing a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the rules during the lawsuit temporarily, Judge Beaton granted the plaintiff states’ motion for summary judgment.

Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Immediately vacating the rules was a major victory for the opposing states and groups. Rather than facing a lengthy legal battle, the regulations were struck down right out of the gate. The FHWA will have to reevaluate how to encourage state cooperation on vehicle emission reductions without overstepping its bounds.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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