Regulatory Developments, Transportation

EPA Overhauling Vehicle Pollution Standards

The EPA on August 5 announced proposed rulemaking regarding stronger greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks through model year (MY) 2026. The proposal also outlines the Agency’s plans for subsequent rulemakings for standards for MY 2027 and beyond. Additionally, the Agency announced upcoming rulemaking to address stricter emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks.

“The proposed 2023-2026 MY light-duty standards would achieve significant GHG and other pollution reductions and related public health and welfare benefits, while providing drivers with lower operating costs resulting from significant fuel savings,” according to the EPA press release.

More stringent standards are proposed for each model year beginning in 2023.

“The proposed standards drive 10 percent greater emissions improvement than the SAFE rule standards for MY 2023 vehicles and then 5 percent greater emissions improvement each year after,” the EPA says. “For MY 2026, the proposed standards would be the most robust federal GHG standards in U.S. history.

“EPA estimates that this proposal would result in 2.2 billion tons of avoided CO2 emissions through 2050. The cumulative emissions avoided through 2050 are roughly equal to one year’s worth of GHG emissions from all petroleum combustion in the U.S. in 2019. Those avoided emissions would provide between $86 and $140 billion in net benefits for Americans. The benefits result from reduced impacts from climate change including harm to human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and changes to agricultural productivity.  Further, American drivers would save between $120 to $250 billion in fuel costs through 2050. With these fuel savings, consumers would benefit from reduced operating costs over the vehicles’ lifetimes.”

The EPA states that manufacturers will be able to comply with the more stringent requirements proposed through technology already in existence and that there is sufficient lead time for manufacturers to make the proposed changes.

Heavy-duty trucks

The EPA announced plans for a series of major rulemakings over the next three years to reduce GHG emissions and other harmful pollutants from heavy-duty trucks.

“The first rulemaking, to be finalized in 2022, will apply to heavy duty vehicles starting in MY 2027,” according to the EPA. “That action will set new standards for criteria pollutants for the entire sector as well as targeted upgrades to the current ‘Phase 2’ GHG emissions standards for that model year. A second rule would set more robust GHG emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles sold as soon as MY 2030 and beyond.”

“Pollution from trucks has been a long-standing obstacle to advancing environmental justice, as many low-income and minority communities live near highways or in heavily polluted areas with frequent truck congestion and idling,” says EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “EPA is committed to walking our talk and delivering tangible benefits to historically underserved and overburdened communities. Setting clear and stringent standards for truck pollution is critical to delivering on this commitment.”

These vehicle rulemakings mark the efforts of the Biden administration’s stated commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.