Legal battle over California emission standards

California filed a lawsuit Friday against two federal agencies, saying they are breaking the law, as they seek to weaken future vehicle emissions standards.

The lawsuit says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration violated the Freedom Of Information Act by not complying with California's request to see the data and analysis behind the emissions decision.

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra says the California Air Resources Board filed a Freedom of Information Act request in September for data on the proposed federal rollback of vehicle emissions standards under the Trump administration. That data was never handed over, according to Becerra's lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also says proposals under the Trump administration to roll back restrictions on vehicle emissions could have a negative impact on the health of California children and communities. 

Outside the Boys and Girls Club in West Oakland, Natasha Olivier is picking up her children. She says her concern for their health includes the air they breathe.

"I have three kids and they run around outside," said Olivier, "I do have one son who is an asthmatic and as you know, we have a ton of freeways here in Oakland."

Dan Farber is a law professor and director of the U.C. Berkeley Center on Law Energy, & Environment. He says since the 1970's California's vehicle emissions standards to prevent smog and unhealthy air have been tougher than many other states.

"They're trying to take away California's power to set standards to deal with conditions in California," said Farber, "The result of rolling back the fuel efficiency standards will be the smog will be worse." 

"The car companies asked for some delay and flexibility but they never asked to have the rollback," said Farber.

Professor Farber says the difficulty with the federal agencies' decision, is that there is no way for economists or scientists to evaluate the agencies' reasoning for reversing the nation's course. 

"Nobody knows how they got those numbers  It's a model that's very different than what economists have seen before and with numbers that seem kind of out the normal range," said Farber. 

In Oakland, clean air activists are worried. 

"The health of communities like West Oakland are at stake," said Brian Beveridge, the co-director of The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, that's been fighting for two decades to improve air quality in West Oakland. 

"Tens of thousands of cars coming and going, to and from San Francisco and around the region passing by every day and vehicle emissions are a primary source of pollution in this neighborhood," said Beveridge, "Now we have million dollar condos right up next to freeways and those folks need to be aware of this as well."