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Trump-Appointed Judge Strikes Down Biden EV Mandate: ‘Arbitrary and Capricious’

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A significant electric vehicle mandate from the Biden administration has received harsh criticism from a federal judge that former President Donald Trump appointed, calling it an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of the law and the constitution’s separation of powers.

A group of 21 states filed a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) over a rule that was finalized on the day before Thanksgiving in 2023. The rule required states to establish greenhouse gas reduction targets for federally funded roadway projects.

According to the opinion’s text, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky supported the states by providing declaratory relief and finding that the FHWA exceeded its authority under the law. However, the court did not permanently prohibit enforcement of the rule or cancel it altogether.

“Even assuming Congress gave the Administrator authority to set environmental performance standards that embrace CO2, the Administrator exercised that authority in an arbitrary and capricious manner,” U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton wrote in his opinion.

There are some opponents of a rule that links reductions in vehicular emissions with federal funds. Republican North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer is among those who believe that the Biden administration’s push for this rule is an attempt to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and limit the use of gas-powered vehicles for transportation.

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Other federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) have also established regulations that require significant increases in EV production in the coming years.

The attorneys general of Kentucky, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming brought the lawsuit against the FHWA.

“President Biden’s radical environmental agenda has lost touch with reality, and Kentucky families, farmers and workers are paying the price,” Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (R) said in response to the court’s ruling. “Like all Americans, Kentuckians love our trucks, cars and vans. With this victory in court, we’re slamming the brakes on the Biden Administration’s politics that make no sense in the Commonwealth.”

Kentucky filed a lawsuit against the FHWA in December. The lawsuit alleged that the FHWA overstepped its legal authority by attempting to regulate vehicle emissions and mandating that states comply with federal regulations.

In his ruling, Beaton agreed, stating that the regulations surpass the FHWA’s statutory authority and are considered “arbitrary and capricious.”

“If Congress did purport to give the Administrator authority to set state policy, that would raise a different and arguably bigger problem,” Beaton wrote in his ruling. “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.”

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“If the Administrator were allowed to shove national greenhouse-gas policy into the mouths of uncooperative state Departments of Transportation, this would corrupt the separation of sovereigns central to our lasting and vibrant system of federalism,” he continued. “Neither the Constitution nor the Administrative Procedure Act authorizes administrative ventriloquism.”

In addition, the ruling Monday comes shortly after a federal court in Texas similarly struck down the regulations. In that case, Texas had filed a lawsuit as the sole plaintiff, the outlet continued.

“The Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration remain committed to supporting the Biden-Harris administration’s climate goals of cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050,” an FHWA spokesperson told Fox News. “We are reviewing the court’s decision and determining next steps.”

Fox added:

After FHWA finalized the rules on Nov. 22, the agency said the action supports President Biden’s “whole-of-government approach” of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the time that the regulations provide states with the flexibility to set their own climate targets.

But the 22 states that challenged the action in court, in addition to industry groups such as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, argued the regulations did the opposite, restricting state efforts and mandating they conform with federal efforts.

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