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Litigation is underway challenging EPA GHG standards for Model Years (MY) 2023 to 2026, the California waiver reinstatement, and NHTSA’s fuel economy standards. The EPA cases will raise constitutional preemption and the Major Questions Doctrine. On April 12, 2023, EPA released proposed GHG and criteria pollutant standards for Model Years 2027 through 2032. On July 28, 2023, NHTSA proposed increasing the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for passenger cars and light trucks for Model Years 2027 to 2031.
Why it Matters
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas sources in the US, contributing more than electricity sector. Improving the fuel economy of cars and trucks saves consumers money on gas and lowers emissions.
The Trump Administration finalized two rules rolling back the Obama Administration’s actions. The administration made the determination to withdraw California’s waiver and issued weaker GHG and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.
Under President Biden, EPA and NHTSA reestablished the regulations and legal interpretations to strengthen the standards. The proposed rules from EPA and NHTSA establish a regulatory framework for continued electrification for Model Year 2027 and beyond.
President Biden targeted the Trump Administration’s car rulemakings in a January 2021 Executive Order requiring NHTSA and EPA to consider publishing a proposed rule revising, suspending, or rescinding the Trump administration’s final rules. In August 2021, President Biden also signed an executive order setting a goal that 50 percent of new cars and light-duty trucks sold in 2030 will be zero-emission vehicles.
In December 2021, EPA finalized GHG vehicle standards for Model Years 2023 through 2026. You can listen to our CleanLaw episode in which Jody Freeman speaks with Chet France about the development of the clean car rules. EPA also issued a notice of decision in March 2022 rescinding the Trump administration’s 2019 California waiver withdrawal and its interpretation of CAA section 177. The waiver for California’s ZEV sales mandate and GHG emission standards are again effective, and states may adopt California’s GHG standards. See our report reviewing EPA and NHTSA’s initial steps to restore California’s waiver here. EPA’s actions are being challenged in court by groups of states and others. In April 2023, EPA proposed new multi-pollutant standards for Model Years 2027 through 2032.
NHTSA issued strengthened fuel economy standards for Model Years 2024 and 2025 in April 2022 and is being sued over the revised standards. In July 2023, NHTSA proposed increasing the fuel economy standard for passenger cars and light trucks for Model Years 2027 to 2031.
Timeline of Events
Obama AdministrationRead more
Oct. 15, 2012 EPA publishes a final rule setting greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars, for Model Years (MY) 2017-2025, and NHTSA set fuel economy standards for 2017-2021 and forecast standards for 2022-2025. The standards feature an average annual increase in efficiency of about 5% to reach a fuel efficiency average of 46.7 miles per gallon fleetwide by 2025.
Jan. 12, 2017 EPA Administrator McCarthy issues a Final Determination 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 AdministrationRead more
March 20, 2017 The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers withdraws its petition.
March 22, 2017 EPA publishes notice of its intent to reconsider the Final Determination on the 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.
August 21, 2017 EPA opens a comment period for the reconsideration of the Final Determination on the 2022-2025 greenhouse gas standards. The comment period is open until October 5, 2017.
April 2, 2018 EPA announces it has completed a 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 revised 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, cities, and counties, led by California, sue EPA over its revised determination of the Mid-term Evaluation. State of California v. EPA, No. 18-01114 (D.C. Cir.). 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 accept only cars that meet the Obama-era rules, even if the Trump administration succeeds in rolling back those standards.
May 16, 2018 A coalition of environmental groups sues EPA, challenging its revised 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 DC Circuit. EPA argues that the revised 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. State of California v. EPA, No. 18-01114 (D.C. Cir.).
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 October 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: September 24 in Fresno, California; September 25 in Dearborn, Michigan; September 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.
Oct. 23, 2018 The comment period for the proposed rules closes. Submitted comments may be viewed on regulations.gov.
Nov. 21, 2018 The DC Circuit requires briefing from all parties on EPA’s request to dismiss the May 2018 lawsuit challenging the EPA’s revised determination, reopening consideration of the CAFE and GHG standards. [This entry was corrected on April 15th, 2019]. State of California v. EPA, No. 18-01114 (D.C. Cir.).
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.
July 25, 2019 California and four automakers (Ford, BMW, VW, and Honda) announce they have reached an agreement on compromise standards where requirements would increase an average of 3.7% annually starting for the 2022 model year through 2026 with 1% of that rate eligible to be achieved with electric vehicle credits.
Aug. 6, 2019 Thirty senators send letters urging 14 automakers to join the agreement with California that Ford, BMW, VW, and Honda announced in July.
Sep. 19, 2019 EPA and NHTSA release a final rule, The Safer Affordable Fuel–Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule Part One: One National Program. In the final rule, NHTSA determines that California’s GHG standards and Zero Emission Vehicle program are preempted under Energy Policy & Conservation Act. EPA withdraws California’s waiver due to NHTSA’s determination and because EPA has determined California does not have “compelling and extraordinary conditions” to justify a waiver, as it now interprets the Clean Air Act. EPA also determines that other states cannot adopt California’s GHG standards because EPA now interprets section 177 of the Clean Air Act as not including GHGs. The final rule is published in the Federal Register on Sep. 27, 2019 and effective Nov. 26, 2019.
Sep. 20, 2019 California files a lawsuit against NHTSA for its determination that California’s GHG standards and Zero Emission Vehicle program are preempted by Energy Policy & Conservation Act. California is leading a coalition of 23 states, the District of Columbia, and two cities in this case. State of California v. Chao, No. 1:19-cv-02826-KBJ (D.D.C.).
Sep. 25, 2019 Minnesota and New Mexico announce that they will adopt California’s clean car standards, despite NHTSA and EPA’s recent moves to deprive California of its standards and disallow other states from following California’s GHG standards.
Sep. 27, 2019 Nine environmental organizations file a complaint against NHTSA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging NHTSA’s determination as beyond its authority, among other claims. EDF v. Chao, No. 1:19-cv-2907 (D.D.C.).
Oct. 25, 2019 The DC Circuit dismisses the case challenging EPA’s decision to re-open the rulemaking process “[b]ecause the Revised Determination neither determines rights or obligations or imposes any legal consequences, nor alters the baseline upon which any departure from the currently effective 2012 emission standards must be explained, the Revised Determination is not judicially reviewable final action….” State of California v. EPA, No. 18-01114 (D.C. Cir.).
Oct. 28, 2019 A coalition of environmental organizations files a case against NHTSA in the DC Circuit. Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA, No. 19-1230 (D.C. Cir.).
Nov. 15, 2019 California files a lawsuit against EPA for revocation of California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act, leading a coalition of 22 states, two cities, and the District of Columbia. California v. Wheeler, No. 19-1239 (D.C. Cir.). Several regional California air districts file a similar challenge against EPA in the D.C. Circuit. South Coast Air Quality Mgmt. v. EPA, No. 19-01241. EPA filed a motion to expedite the case on Dec. 18, 2019 and California filed a motion to hold the case in abeyance until part two of the Safer Affordable Fuel–Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule is finalized and the case against NHTSA in the D.C. District Court is resolved. The court denied both the request to expedite and the request for abeyance on Feb. 4, 2020. The case will proceed normally.
Dec. 31, 2019 EPA’s Science Advisory Board releases a draft report that identifies flaws in the proposed rules’ analysis, like how car sales and turnover rates would be affected by various fuel economy and emissions standards. The board said the Obama-era standards “might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision….” The draft report and the issues it raises will be discussed in the Science Advisory Board’s January 2020 meeting.
Jan. 14, 2020 EPA and NHTSA send the second part of the Safer Affordable Fuel–Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. This final rule contains the fuel economy and GHG emissions standards for model years 2021-2026 for passenger cars and light trucks.
Feb. 11, 2020 The D.C. District Court issues a stay, pausing California’s case against NHTSA until the related case against EPA in the D.C. Circuit is resolved. State of California v. Chao, No. 1:19-cv-02826-KBJ (D.D.C.); Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA, No. 19-1230 (D.C. Cir.).
Feb. 27, 2020 EPA’s Science Advisory Board releases its final report on the Safer Affordable Fuel–Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule, which discusses “…significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis of the proposed rule” and the Board’s recommendations to strengthen the science supporting the rule.
March 31, 2020 EPA and NHTSA release a final rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel–Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks. This final rule contains the revised CAFE and GHG standards which increase in stringency 1.5% each year, down from 5% each year under the Obama-era standards. It is published in the Federal Register on April 30, 2020 and effective on June 29, 2020.
April 1, 2020 U.S. Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit rules in favor of EDF and NRDC, granting them access to an emissions model used in creating the new SAFE Vehicles Rule. The decision reverses a lower court decision that ruled in favor of EPA allowing it to keep the model confidential according to the deliberative process privilege.
May 1, 2020 The Competitive Enterprise Institute challenges Part II of the SAFE Vehicles Rule in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging “…the agencies failed to adequately consider the adverse traffic safety impacts of their chosen fuel economy standards.” Competitive Enter. Inst. v. NHTSA, No. 20-01145 (D.C. Cir.).
May 15, 2020 The California Air Resources Board files a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against EPA and NHTSA for not turning over documents related to the SAFE Vehicles Rules. The Air Resources Board is seeking information that supports the agencies’ conclusion that preempting California’s standards would not impact criteria pollutant emissions or prevent California from meeting Clean Air Act standards. Cal. Air Resources Board v EPA, No. 1:20-cv-01293 (D.D.C.).
May 22, 2020 The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an auto industry trade group, files a request to intervene in the case filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute because the “…challenge seeks to overturn the agencies’ standards that properly balance improvement in fuel economy and GHG emissions performance…[and] therefore conflicts with Auto Innovators’ substantial interest in ensuring that increases in the stringency of GHG and CAFE standards are implemented in a reasonable and steady manner, and would set back efforts to address climate change and achieve greater energy independence.” Competitive Enter. Inst. v. NHTSA, No. 20-01145 (D.C. Cir.).
May 27, 2020 California leads a coalition of 23 states, cities, and local entities to file a challenge to the SAFE Vehicles Rule in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. California v. Wheeler, No. 20-01167 (D.C. Cir.).
May 27, 2020 A coalition of 12 environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Environmental Defense Fund file a challenge to the SAFE Vehicles Rule in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Petitions for review available here. EDF v. Owens, No. 20-01169 (D.C. Cir.). Center for Biological Diversity v. Wheeler, No. 20-01178 (D.C. Cir.).
May 28, 2020 A coalition of power companies including Calpine, Consolidated Edison, National Grid USA, New York Power Authority, Power Companies Climate Coalition, and the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation file challenges to the SAFE Vehicles Rule. Calpine Corp. v. EPA, No. 20-01177 (D.C. Cir.). Nat’l Coal. for Advanced Transp. v. EPA, No. 20-01174, No. 20-01175 (D.C. Cir.)
May 29, 2020 A group of 20 states, two cities and three local air quality regulators request to intervene in the case filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in order to support EPA and NHTSA’s authority to regulate fuel economy and GHG emissions. Competitive Enter. Inst. v. NHTSA, No. 20-01145 (D.C. Cir.).
June 22, 2020 Nevada announces it is drafting regulations to adopt California’s clean car standards. To date, 14 states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s more ambitious standards, and Minnesota and New Mexico are in the process of writing regulations that will make them the 15th and 16th states.
June 26, 2020 Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW file a motion to intervene in the challenge against the final CAFE and GHG emissions standards in the D.C. Circuit. These four automakers have joined the California Agreement, but they are remaining neutral: they are not siding with California and the challengers. They are splitting from their trade group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which has sided with the administration. Their petition to intervene explains that they do not take a position on the arguments being raised, but seek to protect their interests and “ensure that any remedy imposed by this Court is both appropriate and achievable.” California v. Wheeler, No. 20-01167 (D.C. Cir.). Calpine Corp. v. EPA, No. 20-01177 (D.C. Cir.).
July 13, 2020 The House Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee releases a report that directs NHTSA to develop a new model for the vehicle sales market used for the SAFE Vehicles Rule because “…the Committee finds a number of economic assumptions that were included in the modeling implausible and is deeply alarmed that the rule did not pass a reasonable cost-benefit analysis.”
Aug. 17, 2020 California announces its final, voluntary Framework Agreements on Clean Cars with five automakers, BMW of North America, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group of America, and Volvo. The automakers will produce cars and trucks through 2026 with about the same rates of efficiency as the former Obama-era standards, preventing hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Sep. 23, 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom signs an executive order directing the California Air Resource Board to create regulations “requiring increasing volumes of new zero-emission vehicles sold in the State towards the target of 100 percent of in-state sales by 2035.” Whether California can implement these regulations in the future depends on the outcome of the pending litigation or a new administration taking office.
Nov. 23, 2020 General Motors announces that it will withdraw from the litigation on the Part One Rule. GM had intervened in support of the Trump administration, but in a letter to environmental groups, GM CEO Mary Barra writes that she is excited to work with President-elect Biden on a national standard and options to expand vehicle electrification.
Dec. 21, 2020 The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency publishes a notice of its intent to adopt California’s clean car standards.
Biden AdministrationRead more
Feb. 1, 2021 EPA and NHTSA move to hold the consolidated cases concerning the One Federal Program in abeyance until the agencies have completed their review pursuant to Biden’s Executive Order. Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA, No. 19-1230 (DC Cir.).
Feb. 8, 2021 The DC Circuit grants a request from EPA and NHTSA to hold the consolidated cases concerning the One National Program in abeyance until the government’s review of the rule is complete. Under the court order, the government must submit updates on its review every 90 days. Union of Concerned Scientists, et al., v. NHTSA, No. 19-1230 (D.C. Cir.) (consolidated with Nos. 19-1239, 19-1241, 19-1242, 19-1243, 19-1245, 19-1246, 19-1249, 20-1175, 20-1178).
Feb. 19, 2021 The Virginia legislature passes a bill to adopt California’s GHG and zero-emission vehicle standards.
April 2, 2021 The D.C. Circuit grants the Biden administration’s request to stay litigation over Part II of the SAFE Vehicles Rule. Competitive Enter. Inst. v. NHTSA, No. 20-01145 (D.C. Cir.). EPA is expected to issue a proposed rule with new clean car standards in July.
April 20, 2021 EPA’s Office of Inspector General releases a new report finding that in developing Part I of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, Administrator Pruitt sidelined EPA’s air emissions experts, failed to comply with EPA’s own rulemaking processes, and ignored environmental justice concerns, all of which “undercut the joint character of the rulemaking.”
April 20, 2021 The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completes its review of NHTSA’s proposed rule revoking the Trump administration’s interpretation that national fuel economy standards set under EPCA preempt California’s Clean Air Act waiver.
April 28, 2021 EPA publishes a Notice of Opportunity for Public Hearing and Comment, seeking comment on its reconsideration of the Trump administration’s withdrawal of California’s waiver. In the notice, EPA points to “significant issues regarding whether SAFE 1 was a valid and appropriate exercise of agency authority.” Comments are open until July 6, 2021.
May 12, 2021 NHTSA publishes a proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Preemption rulemaking, which proposes to fully repeal the regulatory text and appendices promulgated in the SAFE I Rule, establishing “a clean slate with respect to NHTSA’s regulations and interpretations concerning preemption under the [EPCA].”
June 24, 2021 New Mexico and the city of Albuquerque announces a coordinated rulemaking to adopt California’s GHG and zero-emission vehicle standards by spring 2022.
Aug. 4, 2021 The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under the Office of Management and Budget completes its review of the NHTSA proposal to revise the CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks.
Aug. 5, 2021 EPA releases the proposed Revised 2023 and Later Model Year Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards. Comments are due Sept. 27, 2021.
Aug. 5. 2021 President Biden signs an executive order on “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks” setting a goal that 50 percent of new cars and light-duty trucks sold in 2030 will be zero-emission vehicles. To achieve that target, the EO directs EPA and NHTSA to consider rulemakings under the Clean Air Act and Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, respectively, that are consistent with applicable laws and extend and establish new emission standards for light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and trucks through 2030. The Order directs EPA to propose standards for NOx emissions from heavy-duty vehicles by January 2022 and issue a final rule by December 2022. For GHG emissions and NHTSA’s fuel efficiency standards, the Order targets final rules by July 2024.
Sept. 3, 2021 NHTSA publishes its proposed revisions to the fuel economy standards of light-duty vehicles MYs 2024-2026. The proposed standards would increase the stringency from MY 2023 by eight percent per year. NHTSA notes that while EO 13990 directed NHTSA to review the standards for MYs 2021-2016, the lead time requirements mean that the soonest the MY requirements can be amended in 2024. NHTSA projects that this new standard will require, on an average industry fleet-wide basis of approximately 48 mpg in MY 2026. Several alternatives are also proposed for comment. Comments are due by October 26, 2021.
Sept. 8, 2021 New York Governor Hochul signed legislation setting a goal for all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emissions by 2035 and new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. By 2023, New York must also develop a zero-emissions vehicle market development strategy.
Dec. 29, 2021 NHTSA finalizes its repeal of Part I of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, concluding “that it lacked authority to dictate the scope of EPCA preemption.” NHTSA also emphasizes that the preamble language in other rulemakings, including the SAFE I Rule, regarding the scope of EPCA preemption “should no longer be viewed as the position of the Agency.”
Dec. 30, 2021 EPA publishes the final GHG vehicle standards. The final standards for MYs 2023 and 2024 are consistent with the proposal but EPA increased the stringency for MYs 2025 and 2026 in line with the more stringent option on which EPA had sought comment. Thus, the final rule accelerates the rate of stringency increases of roughly 1.5% year-over-year SAFE standards for MYs 2023 to 2026 to nearly 10% from MY 2022 to 2023, followed by a 5% stringency increase in MY 2024 consistent with the proposed rule. In MY 2025, the final rule increases the stringency by 6.6 and in MY 2026, the stringency increases by 10%. The final standards are effective February 28, 2022.
Feb. 28, 2022 Fifteen states file petition for review in the D.C. Circuit challenging EPA’s final GHG vehicle standards. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
Mar. 2, 2022 NGOs file motion to intervene in support of the EPA in the case challenging EPA’s final GHG vehicle standards.
Mar. 3, 2022 EPA proposes more stringent NOx standards for heavy-duty vehicles and engines starting in model year 2027 and updates to the existing Heavy-Duty Greenhouse Gas Emissions Phase 2 program.
Mar. 14, 2022 EPA issues notice of decision rescinding the Trump administration’s 2019 California waiver withdrawal and its interpretation of CAA section 177. Thus, the 2013 waiver for California’s ZEV sales mandate for MYs 2017-2025 and GHG emission standards comes back into force, and states may adopt California’s GHG standards pursuant to section 177.
Apr. 11, 14 2022 Parties file motions in the D.C. Circuit on whether the court should continue to hold the case challenging the 2019 revocation of the waiver in abeyance in light of EPA’s actions related to the California waiver. Union of Concerned Scientists v. NHTSA, Docket No. 19-01230 (D.C. Cir.).
May 5, 2022 New Mexico adopts California’s clean car standards in an effort to reduce vehicle emissions and support electrification, starting July 1. New Mexico joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia following the California standards.
May 12, 2022 Seventeen states file suit against EPA over the notice of decision for the California waiver. The Ohio attorney general has opposed the decision by arguing that states are equal under the Constitution, and CAA Section 109 violates this “equal sovereignty” by allowing California to exercise its own power in setting vehicle standards. However, the agency’s reconsideration of the waiver was grounded in and constrained by statute. Specifically, CAA section 209(b) requires that EPA must grant a waiver to California unless it finds three specific conditions, none of which were met when the Trump administration pulled back the waiver. Read EELP’s analysis of the revived California waiver here. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
May 19, 2022 California and 19 other states intervene in support of EPA’s California waiver, arguing that the waiver is legally sound and critical for states to achieve their emissions reduction goals. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
May 11, 2022 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) files a challenge to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Corporate Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2024-26 in the DC Circuit. NRDC is challenging the agency’s newly promulgated standards under the Administrative Procedure Act with a focus on NHTSA’s decision not to consider deployment of high compression ratio engine efficiency technologies for new vehicles, which NRDC argues are “technologically-feasible and economically-practicable.” Natural Resources Defense Council v. NHTSA, et al, Docket No. 22-01080 (D.C. Cir.).
May 20, 2022 Ten environmental groups intervene in support of EPA’s California waiver, arguing that if the California waiver was vacated, the groups’ members “would suffer economic, health, recreational, and aesthetic injuries from increased air pollution, worsened effects of climate change, and diminished deployment of lower-polluting automobiles.” State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
June 7, 2022 Five automakers – Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo – file a motion to intervene in support of EPA’s decision to restore California’s waiver in litigation brought by Ohio and other states, arguing that California “has long played an important role in regulating emissions in the automobile industry alongside EPA.” In 2019, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW reached a voluntary agreement with California to reduce emissions despite Trump era emissions standard rollbacks, and Volvo joined the agreement in 2020. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
June 13, 2022 Calpine Corp., the New York Power Authority, Advanced Energy Economy and others file a motion to intervene in the litigation challenging EPA’s reinstatement of the California waiver. The companies state that they are investing billions of dollars to meet the demand for clean electricity to power electric vehicles. They argue that California’s standards drive innovation and create needed certainty for businesses. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
June 30, 2022 Texas and 10 other states file a challenge to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Corporate Fuel Economy Standards for Model Years 2024-26 in the DC Circuit. The Texas Attorney General criticizes the regulation, arguing that an increase in electric vehicles under the rule will harm the auto industry as well as the wider economy and implicate state sovereignty issues. State of Texas, et al v. NHTSA, et al, Docket No. 22-01144 (D.C. Cir.).
July 7, 2022 The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) releases a proposed rule that would amend regulations governing national highway performance management measures to require state departments of transportation ( DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to “establish declining carbon dioxide (CO2) targets and to establish a method for the measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with transportation.” State DOTs and MPOs with National Highway System mileage will set declining carbon dioxide emissions targets to lower CO2 emissions generated by vehicles. The rule will be open for comment for 90 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
August 16, 2022 President Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law, which contains tax credits of up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles and up to $4,000 for pre-owned vehicles as well as credits for qualified commercial vehicles through December 31, 2032, with specific requirements for sourcing and production.
August 25, 2022 The California Air Resources Board adopts a new rule, Advanced Clean Cars II, that would phase out new gas-powered vehicle sales by 2035. The rule will be submitted to EPA for review. Once finalized, at least 15 states are expected to follow.
Sept. 19, 2022 NHTSA announces a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for MY 2030 and beyond medium- and heavy-duty fuel efficiency improvement program standards. The deadline to submit comments was October 19, 2022.
Sept. 29, 2022 New York announces it will ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles from 2035, following the Advanced Clean Cars II Rule adopted by the California Air Resources Board in August. New York joins Massachusetts and Washington as the first to adopt the new California vehicle emissions standards with more states expected to follow.
Oct. 13, 2022 Comments close on FHWA’s notice of proposed rulemaking for amended regulations governing national highway performance management measures. The proposed rule received over 62,000 comments, including concerns from Republican state attorneys general arguing that the proposal exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.
Oct. 20, 2022 Ohio and 16 other states file their opening brief in the litigation challenging EPA’s reinstatement of the California waiver. The state attorneys general argue that EPA violated the Constitution and federal law by allowing California to set its own vehicle emissions standards. On Oct. 24, industry petitioners filed their opening brief in opposition to the California waiver.
Nov. 3, 2022 Texas and other state petitioners and private petitioners file their opening briefs in the litigation challenging EPA GHG standards for MY 2023 to 2026. Relying on the major questions doctrine articulated in West Virginia v. EPA, petitioners argue that EPA’s new GHG standards effectively amount to an electric vehicle mandate – an action which the agency lacks the statutory authority to set. The deadline for the EPA response is February 2023. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
Dec. 20, 2022 EPA adopts a final rule, Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards, setting new standards for nitrous oxides from heavy-duty trucks.
Jan. 10, 2023 The Biden administration releases the US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, a whole-of-government strategy designed to transition the transportation sector to zero emissions by 2050.
Jan. 13, 2023 EPA files its initial response brief in litigation brought by Ohio and other states challenging EPA’s reissuance of California’s preemption waiver for its own vehicle emissions standards. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
Feb. 13, 2023 California and other state and local governments file a brief supporting the EPA in the litigation challenging the agency’s reissuance of California’s preemption waiver. Public interest organizations and industry groups also filed briefs in support of EPA. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
Feb. 24, 2023 EPA files its opening brief in response to a lawsuit brought by states and fuel producers challenging its GHG standards for MY 2023–2026. The government argues that petitioners don’t have standing and that the rules are lawful and consistent with the major questions doctrine as espoused in West Virginia v. EPA. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
March 15, 2023 House Republicans introduce H.R. 1435, the “Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act” with 58 co-sponsors. The proposed legislation would revoke EPA’s authority under the Clear Air Act to issue waivers to states for setting emission standards that “limit the sale or use of new motor vehicles with internal combustion engines.” Seventeen states currently use the waiver to follow California’s more stringent vehicle emissions standards.
March 20, 2023 Ohio and 16 states file their final petitioner brief in litigation challenging California’s exemption to set its own tailpipe emissions. EPA files its final respondent brief the same day. Oral argument is scheduled for September 2023. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
March 21, 2023 Intervenors, including the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group including the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation and others, and a group of states, cities, and environmental nonprofits, filed briefs supporting EPA in the litigation challenging its GHG emission standards for new vehicles. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
March 21, 2023 NHTSA files its respondent brief in the litigation challenging its fuel economy standards for new vehicles. The brief responds to two distinct legal challenges following a consolidation of cases. The first is from states and fuel manufacturers who claim the new standards should exclude all alternative-fuel vehicles in calculating a manufacturer’s pre-existing fleet fuel economy. The second is from the NRDC which claims that the agency understated the extent to which “high compression ratio engines” could be used to increase efficiency gains. State of Texas, et al v. NHTSA, et al, Docket No. 22-01144 (D.C. Cir.).
March 31, 2023 EPA grants California’s waiver for its Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which California adopted in 2020 and which will require an increasing percentage of new truck sales to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. As of the approval date, six additional states have moved to adopt the rule.
March 31, 2023 The Internal Revenue Service files a notice of proposed rulemaking for the clean vehicle tax credit passed in the Inflation Reduction Act.
April 11, 2023 Respondent-intervenors, including state and local governments, an industry group including the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation and others, and environmental nonprofits, file briefs supporting NHTSA in the litigation challenging its fuel economy standards for new vehicles. State of Texas, et al v. NHTSA, et al, Docket No. 22-01144 (D.C. Cir.).
April 12, 2023 EPA releases proposed vehicle emissions standards designed to curb pollution from the transportation sector. The Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles would set new, more stringent emissions standards for criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases for model years 2027 through 2032. By 2032, the proposed standard would result in an industrywide average target for the light-duty fleet of 82 grams/mile of CO2, a 56 percent reduction from 2026, and an average target for the medium-duty fleet of 275 grams/mile of CO2, a 44 percent reduction compared to 2026. EPA is also proposing Greenhouse Gas Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3, new standards for vocational vehicles like delivery trucks and school buses and tractors. The proposed rules will be open for comment for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
April 17, 2023 EPA announces it will hold a two-day virtual public hearing on May 2–3 on its proposed “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles—Phase 3.” Hearing attendees should notify EPA by April 26 of their intent to attend or speak at the hearing. EPA is also holding a public hearing on its proposed “Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles” on May 9–10. Prospective attendees or speakers should notify EPA by May 2.
April 18, 2023 State petitioners led by Texas and private industry groups file reply briefs in the litigation challenging EPA’s vehicle emissions standards for MY 2023–2026. Petitioners claim that EPA lacks the authority to “effectively mandate electrification” under the proposed standards. Petitioners challenge the agency’s action on major questions and congressional authorization grounds. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
April 28, 2023 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approves the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, which would phase out the use of fossil-fuel powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2042. Different types of truck fleets will have different phase-in periods for compliance. CARB estimates that the rule will save $26.5 billion in health-related impacts from air pollution and provide a net cost savings of $48 billion to fleets.
May 10, 2023 Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management file regulations to opt into California’s Advanced Clean Cars II vehicle emissions standards and require all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero emission by 2035.
June 5, 2023 Iowa and 18 other states file a challenge to EPA’s approval of preemption waivers enabling California to implement its Advanced Clean Fleets plan for heavy-duty trucks. Several industry groups, including Western States Trucking Association, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and other oil groups, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and agriculture groups also challenge EPA’s grant of the waivers. On June 6, a judge orders those cases to be consolidated. Western States Trucking Association, Inc., et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 23-01143 (D.C. Cir. Jun 05, 2023).
July 6, 2023 The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association and the California Air Resources Board reach an agreement to phase out large diesel-powered rigs and trucks in California. Under the agreement, the manufacturers commit to meet the state’s zero-emissions vehicle targets and the state will relax its standards for nitrogen oxide to conform with federal standards and provide more time for engine and truck manufacturers to meet new requirements.
July 28, 2023: NHTSA proposes increasing the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2027 to 2031. The proposal would require an industry fleet-wide average of 58 miles per gallon in 2032. The rule proposes different standards for different types of vehicles, with bigger efficiency increases for SUVs and pickup trucks. The agency estimates that the proposal would result in net savings of $18 billion and reduce GHG emissions by 900 million tons through 2032. Comments are requested by Oct. 16, 2023.
Sep. 14, 2023 The D.C. Circuit hears oral arguments in the consolidated challenges by NRDC, states, and fuel manufacturers to NHTSA’s fuel economy standards for MY 2024 to 2026. A recording of the oral arguments in NRDC v. NHTSA is available. Natural Resources Defense Council v. NHTSA, et al, Docket No. 22-01080 (D.C. Cir.).
Sep. 14, 2023 The D.C. Circuit hears oral arguments in Texas’s challenge to EPA’s GHG standards for MY 2023 to 2026. A recording of the oral arguments in Texas v. EPA is available. State of Texas, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01031 (D.C. Cir.).
Sep. 15, 2023 The D.C. Circuit hears oral arguments in Ohio’s challenge to California’s right to request a waiver of preemption to set its own new motor vehicle standards under the Clean Air Act. A recording of the oral arguments in Ohio v. EPA is available. State of Ohio, et al v. EPA, et al, Docket No. 22-01081 (D.C. Cir.).
Sep. 21, 2023 Maine, New Jersey, and New Mexico consider adopting California’s Advanced Clean Car II and Advanced Clean Trucks rules. By adopting the rules, these states would join nine states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Car II rule and ten states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks rule.