Attorney General Bonta: More Stringent Fuel Economy Standards Are Feasible and Necessary

Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced leading a coalition of 21 attorneys general and 4 local governments in submitting a comment letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in support of its proposal to strengthen corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2027-2032. NHTSA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and, pursuant to the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA), is responsible for improving the fuel economy of new vehicles that run on gas and diesel. In the comment letter, the coalition commends NHTSA’s proposal to adopt CAFE standards for upcoming model years that are more stringent than current standards, which could result in vehicles averaging 58 miles per gallon by 2032. The coalition also urges NHTSA to consider adopting standards that are even more stringent than those proposed in order to better effectuate the purpose of EPCA to conserve energy and NHTSA’s statutory mandate to establish “maximum feasible” fuel economy standards.

"The technology necessary to improve fuel economy even more is already available for deployment and should not result in unreasonable increases in the prices of new vehicles," said Attorney General Bonta. "Improved fuel economy saves consumers money, reduces our dependence on imported oil, and benefits public health. Those facts, coupled with our growing climate emergency, are why we urge the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ultimately adopt more stringent alternatives than the ones it is currently proposing to adopt.” 

NHTSA announced its proposal on July 28, 2023. Specifically, NHTSA unveiled four alternative sets of fuel economy standards — with Alternative 1 being the least stringent and Alternative 4 being the most stringent — for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2027-2032. NHTSA is proposing to adopt Alternative 2.

In the comment letter, the coalition urges NHTSA to consider whether more stringent standards are ultimately “maximum feasible,” arguing that the agency:

  • Should apply to a greater extent certain fuel-efficiency-improving technologies in its modeling.
  • Should consider requiring manufacturers to apply more fuel-efficiency-improving technologies to their light truck fleets.
  • Should give more weight to the United States' need to conserve energy in determining "maximum feasible" standards.

In 1975, in the face of an energy crisis, Congress enacted EPCA and directed NHTSA to set fuel economy standards for automobiles to reduce energy consumption. Congress strengthened and expanded this energy conservation program through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. NHTSA can only set CAFE standards for a maximum of five model years at a time.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to advocating for and defending strong federal standards that protect consumers and the environment. Under his leadership, the California Department of Justice recently presented oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in NRDC v. NHTSA, in which certain states and fuel-industry groups are challenging NHTSA’s CAFE standards for model years 2024-2026. A ruling is currently pending.

Joining Attorney General Bonta in submitting the comment letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin; the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; and the District of Columbia. In addition, Attorney General Bonta was joined by the Cities and Counties of Denver and San Francisco; and the Cities of Chicago and New York.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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