Vehicle midterm evaluation now under reconsideration
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August 16, 2017
Vehicle midterm evaluation now under reconsideration

The EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have jointly issued a formal notice of reconsideration of and an invitation to comment on the Obama EPA’s midterm evaluation (MTE) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for model year (MY) 2022–2025 light-duty vehicles. According to the agencies, the period of reconsideration is “an opportunity for commenters to submit to EPA additional studies and other materials as well as to complete the preparation of their comments, or submit additional comments in light of newly available information.”

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In the reconsideration notice, the EPA is also requesting comment on the separate question of whether the GHG standards established for MY 2021 light-duty vehicles remain appropriate, regardless of the Agency’s decision on the MTE.

Early release

The MTE is a product of the Agency’s 2012 final regulations establishing the 2022–2025 standards. The intent of the MTE is to determine whether the 2022–2025 standards remain appropriate under every major criterion, including technologies available to automakers, lowered GHG emissions, other health and environmental benefits, cost to manufacturers, increased fuel efficiency, and vehicle price. The 2012 rule also included corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards developed by the NHTSA and indicated that an MTE by each agency must be completed no later than April 1, 2018. However, the Obama EPA issued its MTE on January 12, 2017, only 21/2 months after publication of the draft document and 15 months before it was due. The NHTSA has still not issued its separate MTE.

Commenting on its early release, the Obama EPA noted that the MTE was based on its evaluation of “extensive technical information available to [former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy] and significant input from the industry.” The Agency also said the early release “recognized that long-term regulatory certainty and stability are important for the automotive industry and will contribute to the continued success of the program.” Furthermore, the Agency pointed out that no statute or rule constrained it from selecting an earlier determination date.

Following the early issuance of the MTE, automakers complained to Scott Pruitt, EPA’s newly installed administrator, that the Agency had issued the MTE without responding to objections the industry had raised about the draft document. Also, these stakeholders said they were still preparing information regarding the MTE in anticipation of the April 1, 2018, regulatory deadline. This information was not ready when the MTE was published, said the automakers, and therefore, the Agency could not have considered it in the final determination.

NOI

In the March 22, 2017, Federal Register (FR), the EPA issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to reconsider the final MTE to “allow additional consultation and coordination with NHTSA in support of a national harmonized program.”

In the current notice, which formalizes the reconsideration, the EPA and NHTSA repeat that comments by some stakeholders were not ready for submission during the previous MTE comment period. Accordingly, once the notice is published in the FR, the public will have 45 days to submit any additional comments on both the MTE and the appropriateness of the 2021 vehicle GHG standards.

The notice of reconsideration and request for comment are here.

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