Staff Report 

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a notice of proposed rulemaking, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule), to rollback the national automobile fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

The SAFE Vehicles Rule is the next generation of the Congressionally mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy and Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  is the first formal step in setting the 2021-2026 Model Year standards that must be achieved by each automaker for its car and light-duty truck fleet.

In today’s proposal, EPA and NHTSA are seeking public comment on a wide range of regulatory options, including a preferred alternative that locks in MY 2020 standards through 2026, providing a much-needed time-out from further, costly increases. The agencies’ preferred alternative reflects a balance of safety, economics, technology, fuel conservation, and pollution reduction. It is anticipated to prevent thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries as compared to the standards set forth in the 2012 final rule. The joint proposal initiates a process to establish a new 50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks covering MY 2021 through 2026.

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler“Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment. We value the public’s input as we engage in this process in an open, transparent manner.”

“There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public.”

The current standards have been a factor in the rising cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000 or more—out of reach for many American families. Indeed, compared to the preferred alternative in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car, and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

On April 2, 2018, EPA issued the Mid-Term Evaluation Final Determination which found that the MY 2022-2025 GHG standards are not appropriate and should be revised. For more than a year, the agencies worked together to extensively analyze current automotive and fuel technologies, reviewed economic conditions and projections, and consulted with other federal agency partners to ensure the most reliable and accurate analysis possible.

U. S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-8) released the followig statement regarding the proposed new rule: “In one of President Trump’s most significant efforts to undo Obama’s environmental legacy, he solidified his own: prioritize the wish list of big corporate polluters over the health of the American people. In rolling back the fuel-efficiency standards, the Trump Administration has again signaled that the wallets of the fossil fuel industry are more important than people’s right to breathe clean air. 

“This is further confirmation that Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler shares Scott Pruitt’s disregard for environmental protection and public health. Today, Wheeler sided against every hardworking American family who wants to stay healthy and save money at the pump.

“All people have the right to breathe clean air and live in a clean environment, and these fuel-efficiency standards are an integral part of achieving that goal. We must continue to fight this Administration’s toxic agenda here in Congress and in the courts.”

EPA and NHTSA are seeking public feedback to ensure that all potential impacts concerning today’s proposal are fully considered and hope to issue a final rule this winter. The public will have 60 days to provide feedback once published at the Federal Register. Details can be found at NHTSA’s website here and EPA’s website here.