U.S. EPA and DOT Propose to Hold Model Year 2021-2026 Vehicle Emissions at 2020 Levels

Increased fuel economy standards, behind vehicle materials and design changes impacting collision repair industry, would slow under proposal. Continues to set one national standard, eliminating California’s ability to set more stringent requirements.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on August 1 released a notice of proposed rulemaking, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (SAFE Vehicles Rule), to change the national automobile fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards covering Model Year (MY) 2021-2026 vehicles.

Increasing fuel economy regulations, combined with newer safety regulations, have been driving much of the newer, lightweight vehicle materials and design changes that have forced collision repair shops to increase their investment in tools, equipment and training.

Under the proposed rulemaking, the end result of the midterm evaluation that was concluded earlier this year, EPA and NHTSA are seeking public comment on a wide range of regulatory options, including a preferred alternative that locks in MY 2020 standards through 2026.

According to EPA and NHTSA, do so will provide, “…a much-needed time-out from further, costly increases. The agencies’ preferred alternative reflects a balance of safety, economics, technology, fuel conservation, and pollution reduction. It is anticipated to prevent thousands of on-road fatalities and injuries as compared to the standards set forth in the 2012 final rule. The joint proposal initiates a process to establish a new 50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks covering MY 2021 through 2026.

“We are delivering on President Trump’s promise to the American public that his administration would address and fix the current fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our proposal aims to strike the right regulatory balance based on the most recent information and create a 50-state solution that will enable more Americans to afford newer, safer vehicles that pollute less. More realistic standards can save lives while continuing to improve the environment. We value the public’s input as we engage in this process in an open, transparent manner.”

“There are compelling reasons for a new rulemaking on fuel economy standards for 2021-2026,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “More realistic standards will promote a healthy economy by bringing newer, safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles to U.S. roads and we look forward to receiving input from the public.”

According to EPA and NHTSA, the current standards have been a factor in the rising cost of new automobiles to an average of $35,000 or more—out of reach for many American families. Indeed, compared to the preferred alternative in the proposal, keeping in place the standards finalized in 2012 would add $2,340 to the cost of owning a new car, and impose more than $500 billion in societal costs on the U.S. economy over the next 50 years.

According to the government, the increased cost delays vehicle purchases hindering overall fuel economy in the car park and safety.

The auto industry is supporting the change and continued increases in fuel economy.

In a joint statement, the Auto Alliance and Global Automakers said, “Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities that incentivize advanced technologies while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment. With today’s release of the Administration’s proposals, it’s time for substantive negotiations to begin. We urge California and the federal government to find a common sense solution that sets continued increases in vehicle efficiency standards while also meeting the needs of America’s drivers.”

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), that represents auto suppliers, was evaluations the proposals.

The association released a statement saying, “MEMA is currently reviewing the lengthy NPRM document, however, we are hoping that the administration has addressed MEMA’s requests that the rule maintain the stability and predictability that our member companies need for continued growth. MEMA strongly supports a One National Program negotiated between California, U.S. EPA, and NHTSA. MEMA strongly supports forward progress in the fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions standards.”

Consumer groups and a group of State Attorneys General continue to oppose the changes.

The Consumer Federation of America’s says its report, Fuel Economy Standards: There is No Tradeoff with Safety, Cost and Fleet Turnover, indicates that as fuel efficiency has increased, new vehicles have become safer, sold more and are replacing older less safe vehicles in record numbers.

“This report completely refutes the Trump Administration’s convoluted rationale for rolling back the standards,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director, and author of the report. “Safety is up, fuel economy is up and sales are up. Older, less safe, more expensive to operate, gas guzzling cars are being replaced by some of the safest and most efficient vehicles ever produced.  Consumers are responding by buying new cars in record numbers—clearly they want vehicles that save both lives and money.”

“When it comes to safety and fuel savings, you don’t have to choose – fuel efficiency standards make safety affordable,” said Gillis.

“Gas prices have risen 20 percent in just one year,” added Gillis. “Rolling back the standards may help the oil companies, but will leave consumers paying the price. Sensible standards are consumer’s best protection when it comes to volatile gas prices.”

A coalition of 20 Attorneys General  that includes every state attorney general from jurisdictions that have adopted California’s more stringent standards, issued a statement saying it was prepared to challenge the rulemaking in court.

The group said, “This decision upends decades of cooperative state and federal action to protect our residents. We are prepared to go to court to put the brakes on this reckless and illegal plan.”