The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation Thursday finalized the first-ever national greenhouse gas emission levels for cars and light trucks, a move that is likely to bring a gust of new lawsuits.
The main target may not be the rule itself, which came after painstaking negotiations with the auto industry, but what it portends.
“It will trigger other requirements under the Clean Air Act that other companies outside the auto industry don’t like,” said Columbia Law School professor Michael Gerrard, director of the school’s Center for Climate Change Law. “The Chamber of Commerce and other industry associations have been trying to fight this in every possible venue.”
The rules announced today establish increasingly strict fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emission standards for 2012 to 2016 model year vehicles. By 2016, new cars and trucks will average 35.5 miles per gallon. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated.
“The standards themselves are noncontroversial, and EPA has done a strong job building consensus with other states, the auto industry, and environmental groups on those standards. Thus, it is unlikely industry would seek to challenge those standards themselves,” said Roger Martella Jr., a partner in Sidley Austin‘s environmental practice group and former general counsel of the EPA, in an email. “The determining factor likely will be how EPA decides an upcoming rule, called the PSD tailoring rule, to mitigate the impacts on stationary sources.”
Stationary sources of air pollution include facilities like factories and power plants.