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US EPA to revise GHG emission standards for 2022-2025 cars and light trucks

3 April 2018

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the completion of the Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025, and his final determination that the current standards may be too stringent and should be revised.

The US EPA will now start a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a notice and comment rulemaking to set “more appropriate” GHG emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

The coming relaxation and/or implementation delay of the federal standards can put the EPA on a collision course with California, as the MY 2022-2025 GHG standards are an important part of the state strategy to meet its emission reduction targets.

California has the right to impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions, including GHG emissions, than federal requirements. Other states may chose to follow California standards, rather than the federal requirements. Currently, 12 other states (including New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) follow California clan car standards. However, California regulations require a waiver from the EPA—“The California waiver is still being reexamined by EPA under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership,” said the EPA in their press release.

“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” said EPA Administrator Pruitt. “EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America's best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard”.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols issued a statement sharply criticizing the EPA determination: “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence or law to back up that decision. This is not a technical assessment, it is a move to demolish the nation’s clean car program. (...) Today’s decision changes nothing in California and the 12 other states with clean car rules that reduce emissions and improve gas mileage—those rules remain in place. California will not weaken its nationally accepted clean car standards, and automakers will continue to meet those higher standards, bringing better gas mileage and less pollution for everyone.”

The previous EPA administration has accelerated the process of the statutory Midterm Evaluation of the 2022-2025 GHG regulations and issued the Final Determination in the final days of Obama administration. The former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the Final Determination on January 12, 2017—ahead of the regulatory deadline of April 2018—but the rule has not been published in the Federal Register. The US auto industry petitioned the then President-elect Donald Trump in November 2016, and the EPA Administrator Pruitt in February 2017, requesting that the EPA withdraw their Final Determination and reconsider the 2025 GHG emission standards. In March 2017, the current EPA Administrator Pruitt reopened the MTE process.

The US GHG and CAFE fuel economy requirements have been steeply increasing since around 2012. The required fuel economy improvement in the coming years is on the order of 4% per year. As vehicle technologies representing the low hanging fruit have been largely implemented, future efficiency improvements appear increasingly more costly. In addition, as the current new vehicle base is already more efficient, future fuel economy improvements are likely to produce diminishing fuel saving benefits for vehicle owners. Therefore, vehicle makers fear the existing standards will have a negative effect on US car sales.

However, auto manufacturers also prefer to have one set of standards nationwide, as opposed to a patchwork of local regulations that would require different compliance mechanisms in different states.

Source: US EPA