Federal Government Poised to Issue More Greenhouse Gas Controls for Highway Mobile Sources
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel use from vehicles used on roads for transportation of passengers or freight. This move comes in response to President Obama's May 21 memorandum on "Improving Energy Security, American Competitiveness and Job Creation, and Environmental Protection through a Transformation of our Nation's Fleet of Cars and Trucks."
The President's memorandum directs EPA and NHTSA to establish GHG emission and fuel efficiency standards for several categories of mobile sources-
- Heavy- and Medium-duty Vehicles - The White House Office of Management and Budget currently is reviewing an EPA proposed rule to set GHG emission standards for engines in heavy-duty vehicles; it will likely appear in the Federal Register this October. This rule would cover everything from the largest pickup trucks to 18-wheelers. EPA is expected to issue its proposed rule this fall and accept public comment. For its part, NHTSA announced on June 14 (75 Fed. Reg. 33565-33570) a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for a new medium- and heavy-duty fuel efficiency improvement program. The new fuel standards would likely start with model year 2016, with voluntary compliance standards for model years 2014 and 2015. NHTSA is required to provide four model years of regulatory lead-time to manufacturers; therefore new standards for model year 2016 would be finalized by model year 2012.
- Cars and Light-duty Trucks - The President also requested that EPA and NHTSA develop a coordinated national program that will set further standards to improve fuel efficiency and reduce GHG emissions for passenger cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2017 to 2025. This would expand on an EPA and NHTSA rule (finalized April 1, 2010) that set the first-ever harmonized GHG and fuel economy standards for passenger and light-duty vehicles for model years 2012 through 2016 - click here. EPA and NHTSA are working closely with the State of California and other key states and stakeholders; California already has begun work on GHG emissions standards for model years 2017 and beyond. The auto industry reportedly is encouraging policymakers to work together in order to avoid a patchwork of standards across the nation.
In addition, the memorandum directs EPA to assess the need for new rules to control emissions of "criteria pollutants" from new motor vehicles/engines and the pollutant content of motor vehicle fuels, including tailpipe emissions standards for nitrogen oxides, particulates and air toxics, and sulfur standards for gasoline. At the same time, the president has instructed the Department of Energy to promote electric and hybrid vehicles and advanced vehicle technologies, in coordination with DOT, NHTSA and EPA.
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As AGC has previously reported, EPA has moved forward to regulate GHG emissions from mobile sources because Congress has failed to act on climate and energy legislation. The clock began ticking on when EPA would write rules to restrict GHG emissions in December 2009, when the Agency signed its "endangerment finding." The endangerment finding was a prerequisite to EPA exercising its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate a variety of GHGs. The new standards for mobile sources (passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks for model years 2012 to 2016, finalized April 2010) marked the first time GHGs were regulated under the Clean Air Act, an action that triggered requirements for stationary sources as well. Industry groups, states and other organizations are turning to the courts to challenge EPA's actions. A recent example is the Coalition for Responsible Regulation that filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to challenge the April 2010 GHG emissions standards for mobile sources. (Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 10-1092, 5/7/10)
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