EPA To Roll Back Fuel Efficiency Standards For U.S. Vehicles

Federal regulators are planning to roll-back emissions standards set during the Obama administration, which were designed to lower greenhouse gases and combat climate change, claiming that the requirements were set too high and gave states too much latitude. 

On Monday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Scott Pruitt, decreased emissions standards in the new Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for light cars and trucks for model years 2022 through 2025, claiming the previously set standards did not comport with reality.

The move is likely to set up a court battle between the federal government and CAL-EPA, California’s powerful state environmental agency, and the California Air Resources Board, over the emissions rule, known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

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The EPA is responsible for setting national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). However, under an EPA waiver granted by the Obama Administration in 2012, California was given permission to impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants.

Under this waiver, California has required more stringent emissions standards than the rest of the United States. Not only have the stricter emissions standards made it necessary for automobile manufacturers to meet the most populous state’s emissions standards, but thirteen other states, including New York and Pennsylvania have adopted California’s emissions standards.

In his press release, Pruitt claimed that the Obama Administration set unrealistic national standards and “cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”

According to the release, the Obama Administration rushed out their final decision on January 12, 2017, just days before leaving office. Since the Obama Administration’s last MTE timeline sought to have vehicles reaching 50 miles per gallon by 2025, the auto industry and other stakeholders have sought a reinstatement and review.

Pruitt alleges that the standards set by Obama’s EPA were too stringent, and would raise the price of vehicles for consumers. The automobile industry has expressed concerns to regulators that the standards set under the Obama Administration were expensive, and they planned to pass that cost on to vehicle owners.

The move has alarmed environmental groups, who claim that the rollback is the latest, and potentially largest, blow against efforts to combat climate change. They also raise concerns that Pruitt has yet to announce what the new standards will be.

Pruitt indicated that the new emission standard will seek a balance that will keep vehicles affordable, and that the national standard would apply to all states, including California. It is expected that CAL-EPA would fight such a move in court, and would likely be backed by more than a dozen other states.

Pruitt said the EPA will work jointly with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop the new CAFE standards.


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