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Climate Change Hero

Climate Change Blog

  • 09
  • March
  • 2017

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Automakers Request that EPA Withdraw Final Determination Vehicle Emission Standards and Resume Midterm Evaluation

On Tuesday, February 21st, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (“Alliance”), an association representing twelve of the leading manufacturers of cars and light trucks in the United States, formally requested that EPA withdraw the Final Determination on the Appropriateness of the Model Year 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards under the Midterm Evaluation (“Final Determination”). 



Background

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy issued the Final Determination on January 13, 2017, in the closing days of the Obama Administration, and well in advance of the mid-2018 timeline anticipated by industry stakeholders and required under the EPA’s rules. The timing of EPA actions leading up to the issuance of the Final Determination has been met with strong criticism from many affected industry participants, and now serves as the basis for the Alliance’s request that EPA pull back the Final Determination.

The Final Determination reaffirms and reinstates industry-wide greenhouse gas emissions standards for all light vehicles sold in the United States for Model Years 2022-2025, finding that the previously issued standards “remain feasible, practical and appropriate . . . and do not need to be revised . . . .” These standards were issued as part of a 2012 joint rulemaking process between EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and would require auto manufacturers to achieve an average 54.5 miles per gallon equivalent across their new vehicle fleet by 2025, which the Alliance estimates will come with a compliance cost of over $200 billion.

While EPA is required to prescribe emission standards for classes of new motor vehicles under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Air Act itself does not require EPA to conduct a mid-term evaluation. EPA committed to the mid-term evaluation process as part of the 2012 rulemaking setting these standards, in recognition of the long timeframe at issue and as a concession to industry participants in the rulemaking process. The 2012 rulemaking required EPA to issue a Final Determination on the appropriateness of the Model Year 2022-2025 standards by April 1, 2018.

The Alliance’s Request for the Withdrawal of the Final Determination

In its formal request to withdraw the Final Determination, the Alliance asserted that EPA’s rush to issue the Final Determination prior to President Trump taking office created “severe procedural and substantive defects in the process” and abrogated the Agency’s previous commitment to conducting a robust Midterm Evaluation.

The Alliance has requested that EPA withdraw the Final Determination and resume the Midterm Evaluation in coordination with NHTSA’s ongoing Midterm Evaluation rulemaking activities, in accordance with the original timeline. The Alliance explains that NHTSA has not yet reached a determination on its fuel economy standards and is continuing its own Midterm Evaluation rulemaking activities. The Alliance argues that EPA should coordinate with NHTSA and that its failure to do so “casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of EPA’s data and conclusions.” The Alliance also believes it is critical that EPA reopen the Midterm Evaluation to allow the submission of new information relevant to the Final Determination’s underlying assumptions and resulting analysis, and to facilitate a more in depth consideration of public comments.

The Alliance points out that the White House issued a memorandum freezing regulatory activity on January 20, 2017. Although the Final Determination was issued prior to this freeze, the Alliance is requesting that EPA “withdraw the Final Determination on its own initiative in accordance with the regulatory freeze.” The Alliance argues that the Final Determination is subject to the freeze because it should be considered a rule not yet published in the federal register, rather than an adjudication. Even if EPA continues to view the Final Determination as an adjudication, the Alliance argues that EPA has the authority to reconsider its decision based on “serious procedural and substantive deficiencies.”

It remains to be seen whether, and how, EPA will respond to the Alliance’s request. Prior to his confirmation, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated that he would be open to reviewing the issuance of the Final Determination. Observers will likely look to Administrator Pruitt’s actions on this matter as an early indicator of how he will balance industry interests and the Agency’s standard-setting responsibilities going forward.

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Author

Rachel D. Comeskey

Rachel D. Comeskey Associate