Press Release

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.