09/27/2017 - Regulatory Rollback

Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards / Greenhouse Gas Standards

by Caitlin McCoy, Robin Just

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following. If you’re a reporter and would like to speak with an expert on this rule, please email us.

Why it Matters

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the Department of Transportation (DOT) has set fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks since 1975. In a separate but related process, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles since in 2010. Transportation is the one of the largest greenhouse gas sources in the US, contributing more than one-quarter of all emissions. Improving the fuel economy of cars and trucks saves consumers money on gas and lowers emissions; a roll-back of standards increases fuel costs and pollution.

Listen to our CleanLaw podcasts on these proposed standards:

Current Status

Aug. 2, 2018 EPA and NHTSA release new proposed standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy. The agencies propose maintaining the CAFE and CO2 standards applicable in model year 2020 for model years 2021-2026. The agencies propose withdrawing the waiver granted to California to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards, which a dozen other states also use. The proposed standards are published in the Federal Register on Aug. 24, 2018.

Jan. 16, 2019 Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler says that the final rules will increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by 0.5% a year during his Senate confirmation hearing, changing course from the proposal to freeze the standards.

March 11, 2019 Administrator Wheeler says that the final rules are delayed and confirms that EPA is still planning to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver.

History

Oct. 15, 2012 EPA publishes a final rule setting greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars, for model years 2017-2025, and NHTSA set fuel economy standards for 2017-2021 and forecast standards for 2022-2025.

Jan. 12, 2017 EPA Administrator McCarthy issues a Final Evaluation that the 2022-2025 greenhouse gas standards remain appropriate and should not change. This represents the end of the Mid-term Evaluation of the standards. 

Trump Era

March 13, 2017 The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers petitions for review of EPA’s Mid-term Evaluation of greenhouse gas standards in the D.C. Circuit.

March 20, 2017 The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers withdraws its petition.

March 22, 2017 EPA publishes notice of its intent to reconsider the Mid-term Evaluation of greenhouse gas standards. EPA states it will make a new determination by April 1, 2018.

July 26, 2017 NHTSA publishes a notice of intent to conduct an environmental impact statement, a preliminary step toward setting 2022-2025 CAFE standards.

Aug. 21, 2017 EPA opens a comment period for the reconsideration of the Mid-term Evaluation for the 2022-2025 greenhouse gas standards. The comment period is open until Oct. 5, 2017.

April 2, 2018 EPA announces it has completed the new Mid-term Evaluation of greenhouse gas standards for cars and light-duty truck and concludes that “…the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised.”

April 13, 2018 EPA publishes the new determination of the Mid-term Evaluation, finding that the Obama-era rule “…presents challenges for auto manufacturers due to feasibility and practicability…” and finding the “…GHG emission standards are not appropriate and, therefore, should be revised as appropriate.”

May 1, 2018 A coalition of states and the District of Columbia sue EPA over its new determination of the Mid-term Evaluation. According to HLS Professor Jody Freeman, “This is a preliminary challenge. It’s a shot across the bow. It sets the table to challenge the agency’s reasons for rolling back the rule, if they go ahead and do it.”

May 3, 2018 The National Coalition for Advanced Transportation, a coalition of utilities and automaker Tesla,sues EPA over its new Mid-Term evaluation determination.

May 7, 2018 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issues a request for public input while it considers “options to best ensure that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission benefits in California from the current national program and California’s light-duty vehicle GHG regulation are maintained.” California is preparing to only accept cars that meet the Obama-era rules, even if the Trump administration succeeds in rolling back those standards.

May 16, 2018 coalition of environmental groups sues EPA, challenging its new determination of the Mid-term Evaluation finding the standards “not appropriate” and re-opening the standard-setting process.

May 30, 2018 NHTSA sends its proposed rule to set revised fuel economy standards to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

May 31, 2018 EPA sends its proposed rule to revise greenhouse gas emissions standards to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

July 10, 2018 EPA files a motion to dismiss the case filed by the states, the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation and environmental groups, which are all consolidated in the D.C. Circuit. EPA argues that the April 13 determination is not a final agency action which can undergo judicial review and it is too early to challenge the action (it is not “ripe” for review) so the parties should wait to challenge a final rule if and when one is issued. 

Aug. 2, 2018 EPA and NHTSA release new proposed standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy. The agencies propose maintaining the CAFE and CO2 standards applicable in model year 2020 for model years 2021-2026. The agencies propose withdrawing the permission granted to California to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards, which a dozen other states also use.

Aug. 24, 2018 The Federal Register publishes the Trump administration’s proposed fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks. The comment period is open through Oct. 23, 2018, and people can comment on a wide range of alternatives, including retaining existing CO2 standards and CAFE standards.

Sep. 24–26, 2018 NHTSA and EPA jointly hold three public hearings on the proposed standards: Sep. 24 in Fresno, California; Sep. 25 in Dearborn, Michigan; Sep. 26 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Aug. 8, 2018 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposes its own rule change in order to maintain Obama-era emissions for cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2021-2025. The California rule change stipulates that California will accept an emissions test covering both federal and state standards, but only if the federal standards are not weaker than California’s standards.

Aug. 29, 2018 The coalition of environmental groups files a brief in response to the EPA’s request to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the EPA’s new determination for the Mid-term Evaluation. The states and National Coalition for Advanced Transportation also file similar briefs opposing the motion to dismiss.

Oct. 23, 2018 The comment period for the proposed rules closes. Submitted comments may be viewed on regulations.gov.

Nov. 21, 2018 The D.C. Circuit requires briefing from all parties on the EPA’s request to dismiss the May 2018 lawsuit challenging the EPA’s new determination for the Mid-term Evaluation, reopening consideration of the CAFE and GHG standards. [This entry was corrected on April 15th, 2019].

Jan. 16, 2019 Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler says that the final rule will increase fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by 0.5% a year during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Feb. 5, 2019 Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California introduces legislation to codify the Obama-era clean car standards, protecting them from rollback. The “Clean and Efficient Cars Act” would codify the greenhouse gas and CAFE standards for model years 2021 to 2025.

March 11, 2019 Administrator Wheeler says that the rules would not be finalized by the end of March, as previously stated, but would be delayed. He also confirms that EPA is still planning to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver.

June 6, 2019 Seventeen auto companies, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, send a letter to President Trump requesting vehicle rules that are supported by California to avoid the uncertainty that would result if the federal government adopts rules that will undoubtedly be challenged by California and the section 177 states that follow California’s standards. The same group also sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, stating that the industry would like to compromise with final rules between the Obama-era standards and the standards proposed under the Trump administration.

For More Information

See Save EPA’s pages on CAFE standards and greenhouse gas standards.