Clean Car Rules

This is a compilation of our legal analyses, podcasts, tracker posts, and op-eds about the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen the current fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and light trucks and the regulatory, as well as current developments related to California’s Clean Air Act waiver.


Analysis: EPA Finalizes Multipollutant Vehicle Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 through 2032

Podcast: 3 lawsuits on auto emissions, 1 United Auto Workers strike, and the impact on the EV transition

Harvard Law professor and EELP’s Founding Director Jody Freeman, speaks with Kevin Poloncarz, a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling and Jack Ewing, a New York Times business reporter who writes about the auto industry and electric vehicles. Jody, Kevin, and Jack discuss the three cases currently before the D.C. Circuit about how agencies set vehicle standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency. They also discuss the United Auto Workers strike, the economics and supply chain considerations for manufacturing electric vehicles, and how each may affect the Biden administration’s climate policy for the transportation sector.

Listen/read here and download the transcript here

Podcast: Journey to the Electrification of the Transportation Sector with Jody Freeman and Chet France

EELP’s Founding Director Jody Freeman, who was also an independent director of ConocoPhillips, speaks with Chet France, a former senior executive at EPA who oversaw the first national greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks in US history. Jody and Chet analyze EPA’s most recent proposal to update greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty and medium-duty vehicles and discuss how the implementation of those standards might be impacted by subsidies and incentives in the infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act and future litigation. Listen/read here and download the transcript here.

Analysis: Ambitious and Achievable — EPA’s Proposed Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light- and Medium-Duty Vehicles

On April 12, 2023, EPA released a proposal to cut vehicle emissions: a multipollutant emissions standard for light- and medium-duty vehicles. The proposed rule would set more stringent emissions standards for vehicles, grounded in EPA’s statutory authority under the Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 202(a) and its longstanding regulatory approach to vehicle emissions. The rule also builds on investments that the auto industry and Congress have already made to support vehicle electrification. Read or download our analysis of these standards here.

Analysis: EPA’s Revived Clean Cars Waiver for California

In this paper, Lia Cattaneo (JD/MPP 2022) describes the Biden EPA issuance of a notice of decision to reinstate California’s Clean Air Act waiver for its Advanced Clean Car program, and explains what this means for California as well as other states.

Podcast: Jody Freeman and Chet France Discuss the Biden Administration's Clean Car Rules Changes

Our founding director Jody Freeman speaks with Chet France, who served as a senior executive at EPA and led the development of vehicle pollution standards at the agency, including overseeing, during the Obama administration, the first national greenhouse gas standards for cars and trucks. They talk about the development of the clean car rules, the stalled progress under the Trump administration, and the Biden administration’s renewal and strengthening of the original standards. With President Biden’s ambitious goals for electric vehicles, the major auto companies’ pledges to produce an all-electric fleet, Congress’s funding of charging infrastructure, and the new EPA standards, Jody and Chet discuss how we are at a potentially transformational moment in the history of the Clean Air Act, the auto industry, and climate change. Click here for the episode and here for a full transcript.

Analysis: Is There Room for California in Clean Cars Regulations?

In this paper, Lia Cattaneo (JD/MPP 2022) asks why, with the new, ambitious proposals for clean cars standards, doesn’t California have a waiver for its standards. What are the EPA and NHTSA doing to restore California’s role in regulating motor vehicles?

Analysis: EPA’s Clean Cars Standards—Solid First Steps Toward Electrification

In this paper, Carrie Jenks and Hana Vizcarra summarize the Biden EPA’s most significant changes from the Trump-era standards in its proposed revisions to the light-duty vehicles GHG emissions standards, discuss how EPA is designing it to withstand legal challenges, and how this rule fits into the Biden administration’s broader policy goals.

Analysis: Rethinking the “One National Program” for Clean Cars: Where Does the Biden Administration Go from Here?

In this post, Lia Cattaneo (JD/MPP 2022) analyzes the legal impact of the Trump administration’s Part I SAFE Vehicles Rule, and what challenges the Biden administration faces in repealing and replacing the rule.

Podcast: Caitlin McCoy and Bethany Davis Noll Discuss the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule

Caitlin McCoy is joined by Bethany Davis Noll, Litigation Director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University Law School. They discuss the recently-finalized Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, which weakens fuel economy and GHG standards for cars and light trucks. They share some insights into the rule and how it could be challenged.

Listen here and see a full transcript of this episode here.

Analysis: Comprehensive Car Rules Overview

This post provides a comprehensive overview of the rollback of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy and vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards.

Under former President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a joint rule making publishing the Safer, Affordable, Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule in two parts.

In this post, we detail the climate impact of these standards, explain the legal framework, break down the rules, compare the previous standards to the revised standards, preview the claims in upcoming litigation, describe the status of ongoing litigation, and provide a timeline of relevant actions.

For an analysis of how the Biden administration can address the legal challenges posed by Part I of the SAFE Vehicles Rule, see Rethinking the “One National Program” for Clean Cars: Where Does the Biden Administration Go from Here?

Podcast: Caitlin McCoy and Joe Goffman Talk about the California Waiver Rule

September 25, 2019 – Joe Goffman talks with Caitlin McCoy about EPA’s and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s final rule, issued on September 19th, that preempts California’s greenhouse gas standards and withdraws California’s Clean Air Act waiver.

Op-Ed: The Auto Rule Rollback That Nobody Wants, Except Trump

September 9, 2019 – Jody Freeman’s latest op-ed in the New York Times describes the Trump administration’s extraordinary attempts to undo climate standards that even the auto industry supports, bringing full force of the government to undermine California and spook industry.

Legal Analysis: Looking Forward from California’s Historic Agreement with Automakers

July 26, 2019 – This post looks ahead into the implications of California’s agreement with four automakers, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, and Honda, on compromise standards for fuel efficiency and GHG emissions for model years 2022-2026 of cars and light trucks.

Legal Analysis: California’s First Legal Battle over the New Car Rules

June 28, 2019 – This post describes what is happening in the California v. EPA case, where California and a coalition of states are challenging the administration’s re-opening of the rulemaking process. We discuss how the court will walk through the issues and arguments presented, and how the case’s outcome could influence the inevitable legal battle over the new vehicle standards when they are finalized.

Podcast: Joe Goffman and Bill Becker Discuss the Clean Car Rollback

May 13, 2019 – Joe Goffman speaks with Bill Becker, former Executive Director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. Bill and Mary Becker have just published a report on the Trump proposal to weaken vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards. They describe the effects this proposal will have on public health, state compliance with the Clean Air Act, and industry operations. In addition to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, other harmful emissions will rise, such as smog-forming pollutants, fine particles, and cancer-causing air toxics. The report is on our website here.

Podcast: Caitlin McCoy and Michelle Melton Talk about Vehicle Standards

May 9, 2019 – Caitlin McCoy speaks with Harvard Law student Michelle Melton about the proposed changes to the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles. They discuss the lead up to and details of the proposed rules, and talk about ongoing and future litigation around these rules.

Legal Analysis: Beyond the Waiver - EPA’s Plan to End State GHG Vehicle Standards

November 5, 2018 – This blog is the third in a series on the legal landscape surrounding California’s Clean Air Act waiver to set vehicle greenhouse gas standards, focusing on the plan to eliminate the ability of other states to follow California’s GHG standards. The first post examined the potential for waiver preemption by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the second post summarized the administration’s proposed rule and preemption plan. Both are also listed below.

Legal Analysis: CAFE Standards and the California Preemption Plan

August 24, 2018 – As an update to our examination of the law of preemption under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (the first post in this series is listed below), we walk through the preemption approach taken by the agencies in the proposed rules to explain how they are planning to address California’s waiver.

Op-Ed: Trump’s Biggest Climate Move Yet Is Bad for Everyone

August 2, 2018 – Jody Freeman’s op-ed in the New York Times describes what’s at stake with these rollbacks, how they might play out legally, and the role the auto industry can play in seeking flexibility and advancing progress toward cleaner air.

Legal Analysis: California, CAFE Standards, and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act

June 19, 2018 – Can California’s Clean Air Act waiver to implement its Advanced Clean Cars Program be preempted by fuel economy standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act? Here we summarize the state of the law on this issue. This is the first in a series of three legal analyses on these topics.

Regulatory Rollback Tracker CAFE/GHG Emissions Pages

We have two posts in which we track the efforts to roll back these standards and the penalties for noncompliance. Our Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards/Greenhouse Gas Standards page and our Corporate Average Fuel Economy Penalties page.