Fresh Energy Statement: New federal emissions standards complement Clean Cars Minnesota

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Update: On March 9, 2022, the Biden Administration reinstated California’s waiver to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards, clearing the last of the legal hurdles for states to continue with clean car standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its final federal rules for stronger tailpipe emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. This rule will go into effect for model year 2023 through model year 2026 and will replace the haphazardly finalized standards put in place during the Trump administration in Spring 2020 under the moniker “Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient” (SAFE) vehicle emissions standards, despite clearly costing Americans higher fuel prices, lost jobs, and even more estimated deaths.

Given the history and clear negative impact of the SAFE rule on the climate, our health, consumers’ pocketbooks, and American jobs, Fresh Energy strongly supports these updates to the federal tailpipe emissions standards and applauds the Biden-Harris administration for moving swiftly to rectify this significant misstep by the previous administration.

“The new federal tailpipe emissions standard helps us make up for lost progress during the previous administration and gets the United States one step closer to reaching its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030 for new vehicles,” said Fresh Energy’s Anjali Bains. “This move supports and complements the work we’ve already done in our state with Clean Cars Minnesota, and will mean healthier air for so many more Americans, particularly those disproportionately harmed by existing traffic pollution.”

The EPA anticipates the new standards will prevent 3.1 billion tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere through 2050 and reduce gasoline consumption nationally by more than 360 billion gallons, saving American drivers between $210 billion to $420 billion in fuel costs alone through 2050. Consumer Reports estimates that under these new rules, consumers will save $2,400 over the lifetime of a new vehicle purchased starting in 2026.

What does this mean for Minnesota as a new Clean Cars state?

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota finalized its adoption of clean car standards this year after tremendous effort from advocates, the public, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Because the standards require two years between adoption and implementation, the earliest they will go into effect here in Minnesota is model year (MY) 2025. That means that Minnesota will be following the updated federal tailpipe emissions standards for MY2023 and MY2024 before switching over to clean car standards in MY2025.

The good news is that the updated federal tailpipe emissions standards are expected to match the stringency of the previous, Obama-era tailpipe emissions standards by MY2025, which were already harmonized with clean car standards. This means that by the time Clean Cars Minnesota goes into effect, the federal standards will align with the Low-EmissionsVehicle (LEV) portion of our clean car standards – which means that there should be no “split market” between new gasoline-powered vehicles sold in Minnesota versus neighboring states. The LEV standard regulates how much greenhouse gases and other air pollutants can come out of all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Read more about the LEV standard and what it does.

Of course, since federal tailpipe emissions standards do not directly spur electric vehicle sales, Minnesota will still have the advantage over neighboring states of having more electric vehicles being sent here by automakers, thereby ensuring that Minnesota can be a leader in electric vehicles and won’t be left behind.

What’s Next

This announcement marks the end of the administrative process to update existing federal tailpipe emissions standards. Now the federal government will turn to drafting the next round of standards for MY2027 and beyond, working with experts and advocates across our nation to ensure that what comes next will continue to spur deeper greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution reductions from our transportation sector and propel us to an electric vehicle future.