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21 states file lawsuit against Pete Buttigieg over highway emissions rules

By Jake Beardslee · December 30, 2023

In brief…

  • 21 states filed suit over new federal highway emissions rules
  • States must set targets for reducing CO2 from vehicles on highways
  • Lawsuit claims agencies lack authority from Congress for emissions regulation
  • States argue they cannot be forced to execute federal policies without authorization
  • Plaintiff states say Congress hasn't empowered agencies to control greenhouse gases
The lawsuit aims to halt enforcement of the new emissions targets rule, which the states contend would impose undue costs and burdens on their transportation departments.  Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia

A group of 21 states filed a lawsuit challenging new federal rules that require state transportation departments to set targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles on highways. The lawsuit names President Joe Biden, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Federal Highway Administration Administrator Shailen Bhatt as defendants.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kentucky, argues that the Biden administration overstepped its authority when the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation issued the new rule, which goes into effect on January 8th.

The rule directs state transportation departments to establish declining emissions targets for carbon dioxide released by cars and trucks on highways that are part of the National Highway System. The states would then have to submit progress reports to the federal agencies demonstrating efforts made to meet the emissions goals.

In their complaint, the plaintiff states contend that Congress has not given the federal agencies the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. They argue that the agencies cannot compel states to implement a federal regulatory program or force them to further executive branch policy objectives without authorization from Congress.

According to a press release from Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, he claims the rule, issued by the Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation, is “unlawful and overreaching.”

The plaintiff states include Kentucky, South Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.