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EPA finalizes tougher new vehicle emissions requirements


The mandates, governing passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks from model years 2023 through 2026, represent the toughest-ever standards of the kind. Still, the administration did not bow to the demands of environmentalists to tighten a suite of proposed credits and incentives that give automakers more flexibility to fulfill the requirements.

Although environmentalists and administration officials had warned those provisions risked undercutting actual, real-world emissions reductions, automakers stressed the flexibilities are vital to meeting the new standards. Without them, the industry wouldn’t have been able to independently satisfy model year 2020 requirements, according to a recent EPA analysis.

In the final rule, the EPA said it would continue effectively overcounting the sales of EVs and rewarding automakers with extra credit for technologies that make cars more fuel efficient but don’t necessarily show up in tailpipe readings.

Flexibilities protected

“Automakers are in a strong position to meet these final standards,” the EPA said. Still, “the program includes averaging, credit banking and trading provisions to aid the industry in meeting standards through a multiyear planning process.”

Those flexibilities could be critical in the out years, as annual emissions improvements get tougher. For model year 2023, the EPA is requiring a combined fleet-wide average of 202 grams of carbon dioxide per mile — a 9.8 percent increase in stringency over the relaxed Trump-era standards for model year 2022. In model year 2024, requirements would tighten an additional 5.1 percent, followed by another 6.6 percent in model year 2025 and 10.3 percent in model year 2026.

The updated standards set the stage for another layer of auto standards governing multiple pollutants for model year 2027 and beyond. The EPA is already working to develop that next era of requirements, which it said will govern light- and medium-duty vehicles through at least model year 2030.

Many Republicans, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the ranking GOP member on the House and Energy and Commerce Committee oppose the additional emissions regulations, calling them “radical.”

“As people struggle to stretch their last dollar to afford reliable transportation amid rising gasoline prices, this administration is now asserting more control over the vehicles we drive to work, take our children to school, and live our lives,” the New York Times quoted her as saying in summer. “It’s also a radical push for electric vehicles that will make America more dependent on Chinese supply chains and hurt our global competitive edge.”

The EPA estimated the new requirements would yield $190 billion in net benefits tied to public health improvements, gasoline savings and avoided emissions — some 3 billion tons worth through 2050. While the standards are expected to boost the price tag of cars, the EPA estimates fuel savings will ultimately exceed that initial cost increase by more than $1,000 over the lifetime of an average model year 2026 vehicle.

The EPA’s final requirements represent the kind of executive action Biden can employ to trigger deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts, even without help from Congress.

“Today’s executive action will unlock literally hundreds of billions in fuel savings for American consumers,” said Ali Zaidi, deputy national climate adviser. “It’s part of a broader win-win playbook for our consumers, workers and environment.”

The UAW endorsed the new regulations:

“President Joe Biden and EPA Administrator Michael Regan have created a win-win for UAW members, the U.S. manufacturing workforce and our environment by putting into place nationwide 2023 to 2026 Model Year light-duty emission regulations that are good for our air quality, preserve and grow both American jobs and our economy,” the union said in a statement.

“History has demonstrated that strong standards based on input from stakeholders that include American workers at the table can be an opportunity for both job retention, job creation and environmental protections.”

Bloomberg and Automotive News staff contributed to this report.

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