US environment agency urged by 21 states to toughen vehicle emissions

The transportation sector is the largest US source of greenhouse emissions, representing 29 per cent of total emissions.
The transportation sector is the largest US source of greenhouse emissions, representing 29 per cent of total emissions.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A group of 21 state attorneys-general, the District of Columbia, and several major United States cities urged the Biden administration to finalise significantly stricter vehicle emissions rules than it has proposed.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August called for reversing the Trump-era loosening of vehicle emissions rules with a new plan to boost efficiency 10 per cent in the 2023 model year and aim for a fleet average of 52 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2026.

But the states and cities want more stringent rules saying automakers have enough time to meet tougher rules.

"There is no need to wait to require further deployment of these technologies or to delay the massive economic and public health benefits of reducing these emissions," wrote the state attorneys-general, led by California and joined by New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver and others.

"EPA must begin now to address the devastating risks of climate change and the ongoing harms facing communities," they said.

Other states signing include New York, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in separate comments also called for greater stringency, arguing the EPA's proposed standard "is too weak".

ACEEE said EPA's analysis showed "that the proposed rule will only lead to an EV (electric vehicle) market share of 8 per cent by MY 2026". That was too low to meet President Joe Biden's target of 50 per cent EVs by 2030, it said in its official comments on the proposal.

General Motors said it backed the "emission reduction goals" in the EPA proposal, which it called "historically stringent" but did not weigh in EPA's request for comment on whether to hike 2026 requirements.

In March 2020, Mr Trump's Republican administration rolled back the previous Obama administration's standards to require only 1.5 per cent annual increases in efficiency through 2026. Mr Obama had required 5 per cent annual increases.

Mr Trump's rewrite mandated 2026 fuel efficiency of just 43.3 mpg.

The EPA projects Mr Biden's requirements will cost US$150 billion (S$203 billion) to US$240 billion through 2025 in higher vehicle costs, but save motorists US$120 billion to US$250 billion in fuel costs. They will have net benefits of US$86 billion to US$140 billion, including other matters like improved public health and reduced pollution.

EPA said by 2050, the proposal would "reduce gasoline consumption by more than 290 million barrels", a nearly 10 per cent reduction.

In 2020, EPA said the Trump plan would hike US oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day.

The transportation sector is the largest US source of greenhouse emissions, representing 29 per cent of total emissions.

Light-duty vehicles account for 58 per cent of the transportation emissions.