Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Jacqueline Mietus
Associate Editor
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2019

Under the Obama Administration, the EPA passed Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium-Duty and Heavy-Duty Vehicles. The regulation aimed to reduce climate change-causing emissions from the transportation sector, particularly the pollution caused by trucks. However, following the voiced concerns of stakeholders in the glider and trailer industry, the Trump Administration has issued a notice of repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits.

Background

Under the Obama Administration, the President’s Climate Action Plan called for the development of new environmental standards. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Department of Transport’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) collaborated to finalize greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. In September 2011, the EPA and NHTSA announced greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards, referred to as “Phase 1,” for model year 2014-2018 medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles. Phase 1 applied to vans, large pickups, tractors, vocational vehicles, and newly manufactured engines. However, agencies observed an increase in the use of glider kits as a means to circumvent regulation. Glider kits are used to reclaim expensive heavy-duty vehicle components and assemble a heavy-duty vehicle without a new engine, transmission, or rear axle. Consequently, in October 2016, the EPA and NHTSA revised the standards to include model year 2021-2027 medium-duty and heavy-duty as well as regulated trailers and gliders, referred to as “Phase 2.” Phase 2 would hold new and refurbished vehicles to the same standards by January 1st, 2018.

Intent to Repeal

Under the Obama administration, Phase 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines aimed to cut climate change-causing emissions from the transportation sector, particularly the pollution caused by trucks. The program promoted cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by implementing standards with a wider application of current technologies and developing, future technologies.

However, stakeholders in the glider and trailer industry began to raise concerns regarding Phase 2. In August 2017, Scott Pruitt stated that “In light of the significant issues raised, the agency has decided to revisit the Phase 2 trailer and glider provisions, we intend to initiate a rulemaking process that incorporates the latest technical data and is wholly consistent with our authority under the Clean Air Act.” In October 2017, the Office of Management and Budget issued a notice of repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines, and glider kits.

Reactions to Repeal

The EPA implements greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards to protect human health and the environment. The EPA estimates that the standards will lower carbon dioxide emission by 1.1 billion metric tons, reduce oil consumption by nearly two billion barrels over the regulated vehicle’s lifetime, and save vehicle owners approximately $170 billion in fuel costs. According to the EPA under the Obama Administration, “Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans. These benefits outweigh costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio.”

Environmentalists assert the standards will improve public health and assist in combating climate change. Glider manufacturers typically salvage diesel engines from 2001 or earlier; these older engines emit approximately 20 to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and other pollutants as diesel engines today. Pollutants, specifically nitrogen oxide, can lead to asthma and copious respiratory infections. Public health advocates support uniformly applying pollution controls.

In contrast, the trucking industry claims the standards will hurt business and even possibly destroy the glider industry. If the glider provisions are repealed, trucking companies would be allowed to install older engines into a new truck and avoid regulations. If Phase 2 goes into effect, trucking companies will be faced with the same regulations for both new heavy-duty vehicles and those that have older components in a new truck body. As a result, the glider industry claims that Phase 2 will essentially drive the industry out of business.

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