Can Federal Emissions Standards Hasten the Transition to EVs?

The EPA unveiled two far-reaching rules to tighten emission standards for light, medium and heavy duty vehicles that can only be met by transitioning to zero-emission vehicles. The proposal is certain to be challenged in court as an agency overreach.

3 minute read

April 17, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Electric big rig truck plugged into charging station

Scharfsinn / Electric truck

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan in his agency's press release on Wednesday, April 12.

“The proposed tailpipe pollution limits for cars, first reported by The New York Times on Saturday [April 8], are designed to ensure that 67 percent of sales of new light-duty passenger vehicles, from sedans to pickup trucks, will be all-electric by 2032,” wrote Coral Davenport, climate reporter for The New York Times, on April 12 in the source article.

Additionally, 46 percent of sales of new medium-duty trucks, such as delivery vans, will be all-electric or use some other form of zero-emissions technology by the same year, according to the plan.

Legal scrutiny ahead

Davenport goes on to note that unlike the California Air Resources Board, arguably the second-most powerful environmental regulatory authority in the nation, the “E.P.A. cannot mandate that carmakers sell a certain number of electric vehicles.”

But under the Clean Air Act, the agency can limit the pollution generated by the total number of cars each manufacturer sells. And the agency has set that limit so tightly that the only way manufacturers can comply is to sell a certain percentage of zero-emissions vehicles. Each model year that the rule is in effect, car companies will report to the federal government the average greenhouse emissions of all new cars sold. Companies that fall short of the standard could be penalized in different ways, including fines of billions of dollars.

The proposed regulations will surely face legal challenges from those who see them as government overreach.

In fact, that overreach by federal regulatory agencies was the central reason behind the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision last June that nullified the Obama-Biden administration's Clean Power Plan.

A group of about a dozen Republican attorneys general has filed lawsuits against the Biden administration’s climate polices, and one of its leaders, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, suggested the group would fight the newest proposals.

AG Morrisey's involvement may be an ominous sign. The aforementioned landmark decision: West Virginia vs. EPA.

Related in Planetizen

Hat tip to Larisa Mănescu.

Thursday, April 13, 2023 in The New York Times

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