U.S. judge sides with Kentucky attorney general in ruling against highway emissions rule • Kentucky Lantern

A federal judge has sided with Kentucky’s Republican attorney general in ruling that the Biden administration overstepped by requiring states to set goals for reducing heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle tailpipes and other sources on federal highways. 

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton, of Kentucky’s Western District, in a Monday order said the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) lacked legal authority to issue the “arbitrary and capricious” rule. Reuters reported the judge stopped short of enjoining the regulation’s enforcement or vacating it, noting a federal judge in Texas had already struck it down nationwide before Beaton could finish considering the case.

Beaton was appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

The FHWA’s rule would require state transportation departments to establish two-year and four-year emissions reduction targets beginning in 2024. The rule granted states “flexibility” to set goals that “are appropriate for their communities and that work for their respective climate change and other policy priorities.” 

At the time the rule was finalized, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttegeig said  in a statement that it would provide a “clear and consistent framework to track carbon pollution” and provide states “flexibility to set their own climate targets.” 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation contributed 29% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, fueling the increasing effects of human-driven climate change. 

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman (Kentucky Lantern photo by Mathew Mueller)

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman along with 20 other Republican attorneys general sued the Biden administration to stop the rule from going into effect. 

Coleman in a statement said Biden’s “radical environmental agenda” is costing “Kentucky families, farmers and workers.” 

 “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,” Coleman said. 

A FHWA spokesperson said in an email the agency was reviewing the court decision and remained committed to the administration’s goal of “cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.” 

Lawmakers questioned a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet official about the FHWA rule and the lawsuit during a February legislative committee meeting.

Mike Hancock, deputy secretary for the cabinet, told lawmakers the cabinet had a “great relationship” with the FHWA and that the cabinet was “in the habit of meeting federal requirements” to not endanger hundreds of millions of dollars in federal transportation funding given to the state. 

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