EPA submits final rule to reduce GHG emissions standards for light trucks, passenger cars

Published on December 21, 2021 by Kim Riley

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday finalized what it calls the nation’s most ambitious federal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards ever developed for passenger cars and light trucks. 

“The final rule for light duty vehicles reflect core principles of this administration: We followed the science, we listened to stakeholders, and we are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet — and save families money at the same time,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. 

The EPA, at the direction of a Jan. 20 executive order issued by President Joe Biden, is revising the GHG standards to be more stringent in each model year from 2023 through 2026 than those in the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, promulgated in April 2020.

According to the EPA’s summary of the final rule, the new standards are grounded in a rigorous assessment of current and future technologies and will result in avoiding more than 3 billion tons of GHG emissions through 2050.

Additionally, the final standards for model years 2023-2026 are cost-effective and achieve public health and welfare benefits, according to the summary, with the benefits of the rule exceeding the costs by as much as $190 billion. 

Some of these benefits include reduced impacts of climate change, improved public health from lower pollution, and cost savings for vehicle owners through improved fuel efficiency. 

Specifically, the EPA says that American drivers will save between $210 billion and $420 billion through 2050 on fuel costs. On average over the lifetime of an individual model year 2026 vehicle, the EPA estimates that the fuel savings will exceed the initial increase in vehicle costs by more than $1,000 for consumers.

The final rule’s standards also set the light-duty vehicle GHG program on track to provide a more solid launch point for the EPA’s next phase of standards for future model years, said the agency, which plans to initiate a separate rulemaking to establish multi-pollutant emission standards under the Clean Air Act for model year 2027 and later.

The EPA said the forthcoming rulemaking will be designed to hasten the transition of the light-duty vehicle fleet toward zero-emissions, a goal consistent with Biden’s Executive Order, “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks.”

“At EPA, our priority is to protect public health, especially in overburdened communities, while responding to the president’s ambitious climate agenda,” Regan said in a statement. “Today we take a giant step forward in delivering on those goals, while paving the way toward an all-electric, zero-emissions transportation future.”

The standards also will provide adequate lead time for manufacturers to comply at reasonable costs, said the EPA, noting that its analysis shows manufacturers can comply with the final standards with modest increases in the numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) entering the fleet. 

In fact, by model year 2026, EPA estimates that the final standards can be met with sales of about 17 percent EVs and wider uptake of advanced gasoline engine and vehicle technologies.

And as the GHG standards get stronger over four years, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles will grow from about 7 percent market share in model year 2023 to about 17 percent in model year 2026, according to the EPA.

The nation’s investor-owned electric utilities are on board to support what’s needed for more EVs, said Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn, who noted that the transportation sector currently represents the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S. economy.

“EEI and our member companies… commend the Biden administration for finalizing new rules to help reduce emissions from passenger and other light-duty vehicles,” Kuhn said. “We are committed to working with President Biden and other leaders across the administration to help build the electric vehicle charging infrastructure we need to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector and reduce vehicle emissions.”

The final rule will become effective 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

“EPA should follow the welcome finalization of these necessary and valuable short-term standards by promptly creating the long-term standards our nation needs,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) tweeted on Dec. 20.