Multistate, Nebraska-led lawsuits target California and EPA emission regulations

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Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers announces two federal lawsuits against a California regulatory board and the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, May 13, 2024, in Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Nebraska is leading the charge in two multistate lawsuits filed Monday against a California regulatory board and the Environmental Protection Agency related to new emissions rules.

Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers, in announcing the lawsuits against the California Air Resources Board and the EPA, said new regulations on internal combustion engines and greenhouse gas emissions are unconstitutional and will “put us on a collision course” for a national mandate for electric vehicles. 

“Unfortunately, Nebraksans, and frankly others around the country, are under assault from both coasts,” Hilgers said at a news conference.

Twenty-four states joined the lawsuit against the EPA and 17 states in the California lawsuit.

‘Elephants in mouseholes’

Hilgers said the rule from the California board, which is continuing goals for zero-emission vehicle requirements, will prevent Nebraska and many other states from doing business in California and reaching its ports.

“They are saying you can’t do business in California unless you agree to our very radical electric vehicle mandate for trucking companies,” Hilgers said.

In California, the lawsuit focuses on the U.S. Constitution and its broader impacts on interstate commerce, which Congress has the authority to regulate, as well as a federal law that forbids states from regulating tailpipe emissions. 

Fifteen states joined Nebraska in the lawsuit against the California regulatory board and California Attorney General Rob Bonta: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. They were joined by the Arizona Legislature and the Nebraska Trucking Association.

The lawsuit argues Congress did not grant statutory authority to the EPA to make the rule.

The same states joined Nebraska in filing against the EPA. They were joined by Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

“The Supreme Court has been very clear about this: Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” Hilgers said. “They don’t try to reorder the American economy.”

The EPA had no comment due to pending litigation. The California Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A ‘game’ of regulations

Gov. Jim Pillen, who joined Hilgers at a press conference along with representatives of trucking companies and the Nebraska Trucking Association, said Nebraska is in the center of the country and ships products to both coasts. This helps to “feed the world, save the planet” through state agriculture, he added.

Pillen said Nebraska has “news” for California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his state that the Cornhusker State will “play that game too” when it comes to state regulations.

“The fake-meat, petri-dish-meat folks, they’re not going to have a place in Nebraska, just mark that down on your calendar,” Pillen told reporters. “It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and fight and defend Nebraska, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Hilgers said he gave Bonta a “heads up” before filing the lawsuit. Pillen said he has spent time with EPA officials to communicate the importance of biofuels and ethanol to the state.

Truckers favor realistic carbon reduction

Brent Falgione, president of Greater Omaha Express, which operates in 48 states transporting refrigerated and dry goods, said diesel trucks play a major role in the nation’s movement of goods, including for Nebraska, at the “crossroads of all major transportation routes.”

“While the alternative fuels technology — such as electric, hydrogen fuels — they show promise, they’re not yet widely available or economically viable,” Falgione said.

Falgione said the lack of infrastructure and support for alternative fuels — with no charging stations for trucks in the state — would also complicate the transition.

Hilgers and Falgione said the regulations, which will have staggering start times with the earliest stage not starting until next year, could leave behind rural communities and drive up costs.

Kent Grisham, president and CEO of the Nebraska Truckers Association, said trucks are getting more energy efficient under modern technology.

“If the argument really is about carbon reduction, we can do that today,” Grisham said. “If the argument is about something to do with an electrified technology, philosophy or religion, well, that’s a lot farther away than what honest people are willing to admit.”

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