EPA Publishes New Emission Standards for All Vehicle Classes

On April 18, 2024, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the final rule titled, “Multi-Pollutant Emission Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles” in the Federal Register. This rule sets standards for light-duty and medium duty vehicles starting in model year 2027. On April 22, 2024, EPA published the final rule titled, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles-Phase 3” in the Federal Register. This rule sets new standards for heavy-duty vehicles starting in model year 2027.

EPA believes these final rules will improve public health and reduce climate pollution caused by all vehicle classes by restricting emissions of “greenhouse gases” and “criteria pollutants.” These rules have impacts for businesses, as well as individuals. We prepared the following questions and answers to address some of those impacts.

What are criteria pollutants?

EPA defines “criteria pollutants”, as a group of common air pollutants regulated by national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) due to their harmful effects on human health and the environment. According to EPA, the criteria pollutants impacted by these rules are Ozone (O3), Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

EPA defines “greenhouse gas emissions” as gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. According to EPA, the primary greenhouse gases emitted by human activities impacted by these rules are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).

What vehicles are affected by the new rules?

The light-duty vehicle standards apply to passenger cars, light trucks, and heavier vehicles designed primarily for the transportation of people. The medium-duty vehicle standards primarily apply to large pickups and vans that are typically used for work due to their higher towing and hauling capabilities. The heavy-duty standards apply to heavy-duty vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks, refuse haulers, public utility trucks, school buses, etc.) and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor trucks). 

What are the new standards?

The light-duty and medium-duty vehicle rule creates new standards that limit greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutants from such vehicles, starting with the 2027 model year.

The heavy-duty vehicle rule modifies EPA’s previously established Phase 1 and Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Standards for heavy-duty highway vehicles, which EPA introduced in 2011 and 2016, by making them stricter. The heavy-duty vehicle standards phase in between 2027 to 2032, progressively tightening emission standards on an annual basis.

How do manufacturers meet these new standards?

According to EPA, the standards are technology-neutral and performance-based, allowing each manufacturer to choose what set of emission control technologies is best suited to meet the standards and the needs of their customers. According to EPA, this means that the standards can be met by replacing noncompliant vehicles with a diverse range of light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicle technologies, including:

  • Advanced gasoline vehicle technologies (e.g., advanced engines and transmissions);
  • Hybrid electric vehicles;
  • Plugin hybrid electric vehicles;
  • Battery electric vehicles; and
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Why the new rules and what is the impact on businesses and individuals?

The new rules complete EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan. According to EPA, the Clean Trucks Plan consists of a set of EPA regulations geared towards reducing pollution, protecting public health, and responding to climate change through the vehicles and sources of pollution that operate on public roads.

EPA has stated that these new rules “align with and support the commitments and billions of dollars’ worth of investments from trucking fleets, vehicle manufacturers, and U.S. states, as they plan to increase the use of clean vehicle technologies in the heavy-duty vehicles sector.”

EPA believes the heavy-duty vehicle rule could avoid approximately 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 2027 through 2055, and the new light and medium duty rule could avoid “approximately 7.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the program.” EPA also believes a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will have a positive effect on health, reducing asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, resulting in $13 billion in annual health benefits, according to EPA estimates.

EPA believes the new rules should result in fuel savings and lower repair and maintenance costs for clean vehicles and estimates a reduction of $46 billion in fuel cost and savings of $16 billion in annual maintenance and repair costs for drivers.

What is the status of the new rules?

On April 19, 2024, 25 states, including Missouri, petitioned the D.C. Circuit to vacate EPA’s final emission standards for light and medium duty vehicles. The petition asserts the new light and medium-duty standards exceed EPA’s statutory authority, are arbitrary and capricious, and are an abuse of EPA’s discretion. The 25 states asked the Court to declare the light and medium-duty rule unlawful and to vacate EPA’s final action. If the challenges are unsuccessful, the light and medium-duty vehicle rule will become effective on June 17, 2024. The heavy-duty vehicle rule, which is not being challenged, will become effective on June 21, 2024. 

In conclusion, the final light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicle rules published by EPA will have far-reaching implications for businesses across industries, necessitating a proactive approach to compliance. If you have any inquiries regarding vehicle emissions under the new rules, please feel free to reach out to one of our Environmental attorneys.