Pruitt calls for revised GHG standards for cars, light trucks

Existing greenhouse gas emissions limits for cars and light trucks in model years 2022-25 are not appropriate and should be revised, US EPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt said. He also announced that EPA will start working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop more appropriate GHG and CAFE standards for the motor vehicle categories.

Existing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits for cars and light trucks in model years 2022-25 are not appropriate and should be revised, US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator E. Scott Pruitt said on Apr. 2. He also announced that EPA will start working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop more appropriate GHG and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for the motor vehicle categories.

“The Obama administration’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said. “Obama’s EPA 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.”

EPA sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants under the 1969 Clean Air Act (CAA). The agency also is required under Section 209 of that law to grant California a variance if it seeks one to enforce its own limits if they are necessary to meet extraordinary local conditions.

CAA Section 177 allows other states to adopt their own more-stringent vehicle emissions limits if they are identical to those of California. The variance has made refiners use more expensive formulations to manufacture gasoline and diesel fuel for sale there and in other states that have adopted the same limits.

Pruitt launched a reexamination soon after he became administrator of a July 8, 2009, waiver granting California preemption to impose its own GHG emissions limits for motor vehicles beginning in the 2009 model year. He confirmed that the reevaluation is still under way on Apr. 2. “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country,” he said.

“EPA will set a national standard for [GHGs] that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford—while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars,” Pruitt said.

In Sacramento, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary D. Nichols strongly criticized Pruitt’s announcement. “This is a politically motivated effort to weaken clean vehicle standards with no documentation, evidence, or law to back up that decision,” she said. “This is not a technical assessment; it is a move to demolish the nation’s clean car program. EPA’s action, if implemented, will worsen people’s health with degraded air quality and undermine regulatory certainty for automakers.”

Nichols said Pruitt’s decision takes the US auto industry backward, and California and other states will defend the existing vehicle standards vigorously. “Meanwhile, today’s decision changes nothing in California and the 12 other states with clean car rules that reduce emissions and improve gas mileage. Those rules remain in place,” she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Economics & Markets