US judge strikes down Biden highway climate rule for states

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 4:39 PM

By David Shepardson and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge in Texas struck down a climate rule adopted by the Biden administration requiring states to measure and set declining targets for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles using the national highway system.

Texas had sued the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in December, arguing the agency lacked legal authority to enact the rule. A separate lawsuit was filed by 21 other states.

In a decision issued late on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said he agreed with Texas in its case that “the rule was unauthorized.”

The DOT did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Thursday.

This final rule issued in December by the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires states to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and to establish declining carbon dioxide targets and report on progress toward achieving those targets.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in December the “new performance measure will provide states with a clear and consistent framework to track carbon pollution and the flexibility to set their own climate targets.”

The FHWA noted it did not mandate how low targets must be and instead gave state transportation departments flexibility to set targets that were appropriate as long as the targets aimed to reduce emissions over time.

The agency said it would assess whether states make significant progress toward achieving their targets but noted the rule did not impose penalties for those who missed their targets.

The FHWA said the rule was “essential” to the Biden administration target of net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, but the final regulation did not require states to set declining targets to align with the 2050 goal.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sharply criticized the effort, saying the state would work to stop “unlawful climate mandates.”

A separate group of 21 states sued in December in Kentucky also challenging the regulation. That lawsuit is still pending.

In 2018, the Trump administration repealed a rule issued under then-President Barack Obama requiring states to track greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on the nation’s highways.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jamie Freed)