Georgetown Law

EPA, NHTSA Issue Proposed GHG and Fuel Economy Rule for 2017-2025 Light-Duty Vehicles


On December 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rule to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy for light-duty vehicles for Model Years (MY) 2017-2025 (76 Fed. Reg. 74854,75420). The agencies announced the proposed standards in a Supplemental  Notice of Intent (NOI) in late July, and originally hoped to issue the proposed rule by late September.

NHTSA’s proposed corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards would require an average fleet-wide basis of 49.6 mpg by 2025, while EPA’s proposed standards would require lower fleet-wide emissions of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 54.5 mpg if this level were achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency. The combined standards under the proposed rule will achieve an average fleet-wide fuel efficiency of 54.5 mpg by 2025, an increase of roughly five percent annually for passenger cars. Light trucks will have a lower target of 44 mpg, and passenger cars will have a higher goal of 62 mpg by 2025. The combined standards would reduce the amount of GHG emissions by half for MY 2025 light-duty vehicles, compared to MY 2010 vehicles, and EPA estimates that the standards will save four billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of MY 2017-2025 vehicles. CAFE standards are currently set at just over 27 mpg, and are scheduled to reach 35.2 mpg by 2016.

NHTSA has the authority to establish CAFE standards under the Energy Policy Conservation Act, and EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas as pollutants under Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, (549 U.S. 497 (2007)). EPA and NHTSA have worked closely with the California Air Resources Board (ARB), and ARB recently released a proposal for MY 2017-2025 emissions standards that are consistent with the proposed national standards. California has unique authority under the Clean Air Act to seek a waiver to implement more stringent air pollution standards for motor vehicles, and EPA granted California a waiver for GHG regulations for MY 2009-2016 light duty vehicles on July 8, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 32,744). At the same time California worked with EPA and NHTSA to develop a single nationwide federal standard for MY 2012-2016, and subsequently accepted the federal standards that were finalized May 7, 2010 (Joint Light-Duty Vehicle GHG Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, 75 Fed. Reg. 25,324).

NHTSA and EPA will jointly hold three public hearings in January to accept comments to the rulemaking documents, and NHTSA will also accept comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at these hearings. Comments must be received no later than 60 days after the December 1, 2011 publication in the Federal Register. A final rule is expected by July 31, 2012.