OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Air Resources Board today led a multistate coalition in filing a motion to intervene in defense of federal fuel economy standards for light duty vehicles. In May 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted more stringent fuel economy standards for model year 2024-2026 vehicles. Attorney General Bonta led a multistate coalition in urging the NHTSA to adopt these standards, and a similar coalition now seeks to join NHTSA in defending these standards from challenges filed by several states and a petroleum industry group.
“Fuel economy standards save consumers money at the pump and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels at a time of global instability and an ongoing climate crisis,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “The skyrocketing gas prices over the past few months are case in point for why more stringent fuel economy standards are necessary. The technology is there, and the law is clear. As Attorney General, I’ll always stand up for hardworking consumers, and I’ll keep fighting to protect Californians' wallets, our health, and the future of our planet.”
“The climate crisis demands bold action to tackle our largest source of harmful emissions and protect communities that bear the brunt of this pollution,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “These science-backed fuel economy standards are critical to cleaning the air and ramping up progress toward a zero-emission future.”
“The future is zero emission,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “but some cars will still run on gas – and to protect public health, it is absolutely crucial that they be as fuel-efficient as possible. This will help reduce pollution and clean the air, especially in neighborhoods near highways.”
Under the Energy Policy Conservation Act, NHTSA is required to set standards to improve fuel economy and reduce energy consumption of vehicles to the maximum extent feasible. During the Trump Administration, NHTSA instead gutted fuel economy standards for model year 2022-2026 vehicles, a move that the states subsequently challenged in court. NHTSA’s new standards for model year 2024-2026 vehicles undo some of the damage by increasing stringency by 8-10% annually. These standards will save an estimated 60 billion gallons of gasoline, resulting in consumer savings of over $98 billion.
Improved fuel economy doesn't just save consumers money at the pump, it improves national security by reducing the country’s dependence on imported oil, mitigates climate change, improves air quality, and benefits public health. In addition to consumer savings, NHTSA’s standards are expected to reduce multiple types of harmful air pollution, including particulate matter from refinery operations. In California alone, over 5,000 premature deaths and hundreds of illnesses and emergency room visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease are linked to particulate matter pollution annually. The standards' positive impacts are expected to be magnified in low-income communities and communities of color, who often live near refineries and are disproportionately burdened by pollution and the resulting health consequences.
In today’s motion to intervene, the coalition argues that the fuel economy standards are critically important to the states, which have a responsibility to protect residents and state resources from rising gas prices, oil price shocks, and negative impacts from higher fuel consumption, including harmful emissions from fuel refining activities.
Attorney General Bonta, Governor Newsom, and CARB are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the city and county of Denver, and the cities of Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco in filing today’s motion.
A copy of the motion, which is subject to court approval, is available here.