Texas leads 14-state coalition against stricter vehicle emission standards

March 17, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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Backed by 13 other states, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading the charge in stopping President Joe Biden’s administration from implementing stricter greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles.

Paxton is petitioning to the District of Columbia Circuit Court to review final action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tighten greenhouse gas emission standards. Specifically, Paxton wants to put a stop to the EPA’s Revised 2023 and Later Model Year Light-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards, which was published in the Federal Register in December.

More than a dozen attorney generals in red states are supporting Paxton’s efforts: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah.

“At a time when American gas prices are skyrocketing at the pump, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict shows again the absolute need for energy independence, Biden chooses to go to war against fossil fuels,” Paxton said in a statement. “These severe new rules proposed by the EPA are not only unnecessary, but they will create a deliberate disadvantage to Texas and all states who are involved in the production of oil and gas. I will not allow this federal overreach to wreak havoc on our economy or the livelihoods of hard-working Texans.”

Stricter greenhouse gas emission standards

Revised greenhouse gas emission standards for light-duty vehicles and medium-duty vehicles (e.g., commercial pickups and vans) are the strictest to date. The Obama administration set standards for model year 2025 vehicles to 180 grams/mile, the miles-per-gallon equivalent of 50 mpg. However, the Trump administration loosened those standards to 208 grams/mile or 43 mpg.

The Biden administration’s standards erases Trump’s efforts to weaken greenhouse gas emission standards. They go even further by strengthening the standards set in 2012. The new standards include 161 grams/mile or 55 mpg.

The EPA’s new greenhouse gas emission standards align with Biden’s executive order titled “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks.”

Biden’s executive order directs the EPA to “establish new multi-pollutant emissions standards, including for greenhouse gas emissions, for light- and medium-duty vehicles beginning with model year 2027 and extending through and including at least model year 2030.”

Similar directives affect heavy-duty trucks as well.

Proponents of Biden’s greenhouse gas emission standards tout claimed benefits, including:

  • Reduced effects of climate change, improved public health from lower pollution, and cost savings for vehicle owners through improved fuel efficiency.
  • From $8 billion to $19 billion of total benefits through 2050 result from improved public health due to reduced emissions of nongreenhouse gas pollutants, including nitrogen oxide and other pollutants that contribute to fine particulates
  • Looking at fuel costs alone, American drivers will save from $210 billion to $420 billion through 2050 (EPA estimates that reduced fuel costs will outweigh the increase in vehicle costs by about $1,080 over the lifetime of a model year 2026 vehicle).

However, opponents, including the 14-state coalition led by Texas, see it a different way. To start, Paxton claims the new greenhouse gas emission standards exceed the EPA’s authority, thus violating the Constitution’s separation-of-powers principles.

“The new rule seeks to promote the Biden Administration’s radical climate change agenda by promoting electric vehicle usage over other, superior means of transportation that use abundant fossil fuels,” Paxton said in a statement. “If left in place, the regulations will impose major economic harms on Texas by stressing its electric grid and decreasing the need for gasoline by billions of gallons, effectively destroying Texas’s robust energy industry. Other states that would have benefitted from increased production in renewable fuels will also be negatively impacted.”

Future of greenhouse gas emission standards behind a shroud of uncertainty

Since the Obama administration, greenhouse gas emission standards have gone up and down, depending on who controls the federal government at any given moment. Democrats set rules strengthening standards. Those are reversed by Republicans claiming the standards are government overreach, only to be strengthened again once Democrats take power.

Several auto manufacturers have pledged to reach certain emission standards, regardless of government regulations.

While the 14-state coalition is going to bat for light- and medium-duty vehicles, the fate of greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty trucks is mostly in the hands of industry stakeholders, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Although zero-emission technology for light-duty vehicles is rapidly improving and becoming more economically feasible for consumers, the same is not true for heavy-duty trucks. Stakeholders say that forcing technology that is not ready for prime time could cost the trucking industry billions of dollars in costs, including higher prices tags on new trucks and more expensive maintenance work. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.