EPA: New emissions standards

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that auto emissions standards are expected to relax until 2032.

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March 19, 2024 - 2:50 PM

Photo by Irlan Khan / Los Angeles Times / TNS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration this week is expected to announce new automobile emissions standards that relax proposed limits for three years but eventually reach the same strict standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The changes come as sales of zero-tailpipe emissions electric vehicles, needed to meet the standards, have begun to slow. The auto industry has cited lower sales growth in objecting to the EPA’s preferred standards unveiled last April as part of the most ambitious plan ever to cut planet-warming emissions from passenger vehicles.

The EPA suggested that under its preferred alternative, the industry could meet the limits if 67% of new vehicle sales are electric by 2032.

But during a public comment period on the standards for 2027 through 2032, the auto industry called the benchmarks unworkable with EV sales slowing as consumers worry about cost, range and a lack of publicly available charging stations.

Three people with knowledge of the standards say the Biden EPA will pick an alternative that slows implementation from 2027 through 2029, but ramps up to reach the level the EPA preferred from 2030 to 2032. The alternative will have other modifications that help the auto industry meet the standards, including the calculation of how EV fuel economy is measured, one of the people said.

The people, two from the auto industry and one from the government, didn’t want to be identified because the new standards haven’t been made public by the EPA.

The changes appear aimed at addressing strong industry opposition to the accelerated ramp-up of EVs, along with public reluctance to fully embrace the new technology. There is also a legitimate threat of legal challenges before conservative courts.

The Supreme Court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, has increasingly reined in the powers of federal agencies, including the EPA, in recent years. The justices have restricted the EPA’s authority to fight air and water pollution — including a landmark 2022 ruling that limited the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.

Biden has made fighting climate change a hallmark of his presidency and is seeking to slash carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles, which make up the largest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, Biden needs cooperation from the auto industry and political support from auto workers, a key political voting bloc. The United Auto Workers union, which has endorsed Biden, has said it favors the transition to electric vehicles but wants to make sure jobs are preserved and that industry pays top wages to workers who build the EVs and batteries.

Generally, environmental groups have been optimistic about the new EPA plan.

Manish Bapna, president of Natural Resources Defense Council, told reporters last week that he expects the rule will significantly cut carbon emissions from cars and light-duty trucks, which are the source of one-fifth of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Based on what we hear, there’s no reason to doubt that the climate rules for cars and light-duty trucks are going to cut well over 90% of the carbon pollution from new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks’’ over the next few decades, Bapna said. “That’s huge.″

Between 2027 and 2055, the EPA rule “will prevent more than 70 billion tons of climate wrecking carbon emissions. That’s more than the nation generates in a year. It’s absolutely essential, real, concrete progress,’’ Bapna said.

“EPA’s clean car standards will put the pedal to the metal as the U.S. races to achieve cleaner, healthier air for everyone,” said Amanda Leland, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund, another environmental group.

Tailpipes release dangerous particle pollution and smog and are one of the largest sources of climate pollution in the nation, Leland said. “Strong clean car standards help provide cleaner air and a safer climate, thousands of dollars in cost savings for our families and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in U.S. manufacturing.″

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