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EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Issue Proposed Green House Gas Rules for Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles

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By Chris Colyer

On June 19, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly proposed new rules to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel consumption for new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. The proposed rules will impact companies that manufacture, sell, or import medium-duty and heavy-duty engines and vehicles, including tractor trailers, heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles such as school buses and delivery trucks. A copy of the proposed rules can be found here.

The proposed rules set forth carbon dioxide emission and fuel consumption standards which vary by class of vehicle and engine. The proposed rules also establish hydrofluorocarbon standards to control leakage from vocational vehicle air conditioning systems as well as nitrous oxide and methane standards for heavy-duty engines. Interestingly, the proposed standards are based on both current technology and technology currently under development. However, EPA and NHTSA claim that the proposed rules will provide significant lead time to allow the regulated industry to develop, test, and phase-in these future technologies. Although the current proposal would seek to phase in the standards between 2018 and 2027, EPA and NHTSA also seek comment regarding the feasibility of an expedited 2024 deadline. The agencies estimate that the new standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 billion metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

The proposed rules are consistent with other recent EPA efforts to reduce GHG pollution in various sectors pursuant to President Barack Obama’s June 25, 2013 Climate Action Plan. For example, as described in a past Legal Alert, on June 2, 2014 EPA proposed a highly controversial rule to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants by thirty percent. Similarly, on June 23, 2015, EPA published its report on the benefits of reducing GHG emissions—Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action—which we anticipate EPA will rely upon as justification for future GHG rulemakings.

We will continue to monitor and provide periodic blog updates regarding these proposed new rules for medium and heavy-duty vehicles as well as EPA’s other ongoing GHG initiatives.