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March 31, 2020
Contact: Tom Lalley

Amid Worsening Pandemic, Trump Administration Rolls Back Car Fuel Efficiency Standards

Weakened standards will cost thousands of American lives, significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and cost consumers billions more at the pump.

Washington, D.C. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a final rule today that rolls back greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks. The new rule calls for a 1.5% annual improvement in fuel efficiency — well below the 5% annual improvement required under the standards that were rolled back today, and below the 2% annual improvement car makers typically achieve on their own. Transportation is the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and a leading source of air pollution that harms human health. The weakened standards are expected to generate an additional 653 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, an amount larger than the annual economy-wide emissions of more than three quarters of the countries on earth.
David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law and former Interior Deputy Secretary in the Obama and Clinton administrations, released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“By rejecting agreed-upon improvements in engine efficiency, the administration is ensuring that the auto industry’s carbon emissions — already the nation’s largest source of climate-damaging greenhouse gases — will increase by hundreds of millions of tons. It’s the latest, clear signal that the administration has no interest in fighting climate change. The final rule cruelly lays waste to the Clean Car Standards, a successful, collaborative effort led by automakers, federal and state regulators, scientists and public health experts to substantially reduce carbon pollution, while also reducing other tailpipe emissions that are causing respiratory illnesses and premature deaths. The administration has turned a win-win into big loser, and has outrageously chosen to announce it in the midst of a national emergency.”

In 2012, the Obama administration finalized a rule that gradually raised fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025, nearly double the average at the time. The regulations were the result of a joint rulemaking between the EPA, NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board, in cooperation with the auto industry. The standards were projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by six billion metric tons, prevent up to 2,000 premature deaths and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments, and reduce asthma symptoms for 24 million Americans, including 6.3 million children.
President Trump ordered a review of the Obama administration’s standards in March 2017, shortly after taking office. In August 2018, the EPA and NHTSA released a notice of proposed rulemaking to freeze fuel efficiency standards for model years 2021-2026 at the model year 2020 level. In 2019, the EPA and NHSTA published a separate final rule withdrawing California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to set its own vehicle emissions standards — an action without precedent in the law’s decades-long history. The decision also impacted the 13 other states — home to roughly one-third of the U.S. population — that have adopted California’s standards as permitted under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act.
State attorneys general have vigorously opposed the administration’s attempts to roll back national vehicle emission standards. A coalition of 21 AGs filed comments in October 2018 urging the EPA to withdraw its proposal to freeze standards for model years 2021-2026, warning that it violates the agencies’ responsibilities under the Clean Air Act to protect the public from air pollution. A separate coalition of 24 AGs filed a lawsuit in September 2019 challenging the administration’s revocation of California’s Clean Air Act waiver.



About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
For more information, visit our website