Chrome exhaust pipeEnlarge Photo
The period for public comments on the EPA's proposed reconsideration of finalized rules to cut emissions of the climate-change gas carbon dioxide from light-duty vehicles will end on Thursday, October 5.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on August 10 it would reopen the Comment Period for the vehicle-emission standards for model years 2022 through 2025 it had finalized in January.
The auto industry and its lobbyists had complained that the agency had moved too quickly, despite its issuance last summer of a voluminous Technical Assessment Report that detailed the analyses, modeling, comments, and science behind the decision.
President Trump's appointment of fossil-fuel advocate and climate-science denier Scott Pruitt to run the EPA all but guaranteed those standards would be revisited nonetheless.
But when the Midterm Evaluation of greenhouse-gas emission standards for vehicles was officially reopened on August 10, a funny thing happened: The period for public comments was not reopened.
It took more than two weeks for citizens to be able to submit their views on whether the agency should loosen its rules to permit vehicles to emit more carbon dioxide.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We published this article on August 27, and edited it on October 4 to reflect the impending close of the comment period on October 5.]
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [photo from 2014]Enlarge Photo
Members of the public can comment on the reopening of the standards via a link on the Regulations.gov website.
Note that not only are the 2022-2025 standards under review, so are the rules for model-year 2021—a concession the auto industry had not sought and an action above and beyond what was expected.
The Environmental Protection Agency itself has comprehensive information on the Midterm Evaluation process on its website, including the history of the agency's prior determination.
A public hearing on the proposed greenhouse-gas emission limits was held on September 6, in Washington, D.C. That hearing was announced on August 23 via a notice in the Federal Register.
Unfortunately, the published notice contained a typographic error in the e-mail address to be used by members of the public who wished to testify at the public hearing.
The correct address is: Hearing_Registration-ASD (at) epa (dot) gov.
U.S. Capitol BuildingEnlarge Photo
EPA emission limits vs NHTSA CAFE rules
While the EPA sets limits on the vehicle emissions, fuel-economy rules for those same vehicles are set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration instead.
Those two standards operated independently until 2012, when the EPA first regulated carbon dioxide—requiring the two sets of standards to align, since CO2 emissions are directly proportional to fuel consumed.
NHTSA regulations operate on a different schedule than EPA rules, so the agency hadn't yet finalized its 2022-2025 corporate average fuel economy rules when Trump took office.
Under Department of Transportation secretary Elaine Chao, the agency has indicated that it could freeze CAFE standards for 2022-2025 at 2021 levels.
Elaine ChaoEnlarge Photo
It will also assess rolling back the 2021 CAFE requirements, allowing vehicles to consume more gasoline and diesel fuel than they are now allowed to. The commenting and approval process for the NHTSA CAFE rules has not yet begun.
In September, China—the world's largest car maket—announced that it is evaluating when to end sales of new cars with combustion engines, triggering a radical reassessment of product plans by the world's automakers.
While Pruitt may loosen emission limits in the short term, the longer-term trend toward electric cars that emit nothing is now essentially fixed.
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