Attorney General Bonta: More Stringent Fuel Economy Standards Are Supported By Science, Reason, and Law

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today led a coalition of 22 states, six cities, and the District of Columbia in supporting the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposal to increase the stringency of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for model year 2024-2026 vehicles. Under the Energy Policy Conservation Act, NHTSA is required to set standards to improve fuel economy and reduce the energy consumption of passenger cars and light-duty trucks to the maximum extent feasible. Strong fuel economy standards have saved consumers hundreds of dollars, reduced harmful emissions, and helped protect the health of our communities. In today’s comment letter, the coalition argues that NHTSA's proposed standards – unlike the Trump-era rules the coalition is currently challenging in court – are supported by science, reason, and the law.   

“Fuel economy standards save drivers money at the pump, reduce toxic air pollution, and help combat the climate crisis,” said Attorney General Bonta. “They’re a win for our economy, a win for public health, and a win for the environment. More than that, they’re technologically feasible and supported by the law. I urge NHTSA to finalize these more stringent standards so that we can finally start to put the multi-year attack on our nation’s clean cars program behind us.” 

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act requires NHTSA to establish “maximum feasible” fuel economy standards and to consider “technological feasibility, economic practicability, the effect of other motor vehicle standards of the Government on fuel economy, and the need of the United States to conserve energy” in doing so. Under the Trump Administration, NHTSA abdicated this responsibility with its so-called “SAFE” rules, which rolled back the nation’s Clean Car Standards. The changes to the CAFE standards alone were expected to “result in 1.9 to 2.0 additional billion barrels of fuel consumed,” and reverse consumer savings through increased fuel expenditure. All in all, NHTSA estimated that the net benefits of their final rules “straddle[d] zero.” 

In today’s comments, the coalition expresses their strong support for NHTSA’s proposal to set more stringent fuel economy standards for model years 2024 to 2026. Improved fuel economy saves consumers money, improves our national security by reducing our dependence on imported oil, counters climate change, improves air quality, and benefits public health. For example, NHTSA expects these standards to reduce multiple types of harmful air pollution, including particulate matter. 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. Studies also show that air pollution may increase the individuals' vulnerability to contracting COVID-19 and may increase the severity of, and mortality risk from, infection with the virus. Importantly, the impacts of NHTSA’s proposed standards are likely to be magnified in low-income communities and communities of color, who are often located in transportation corridors and are disproportionately burdened by pollution and the resulting health consequences.

Attorney General Bonta has pushed the Biden Administration to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. This summer, Attorney General Bonta testified, and later submitted comments, urging the EPA to restore California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act for its GHG and zero-emission vehicle standards. The Attorney General and CARB also led a coalition in urging NHTSA to repeal a Trump-era rule, known as the “Preemption Rule,” that purported to preempt California’s GHG and zero-emission-vehicles standards. In September, Attorney General Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James led a multistate coalition in urging NHTSA to restore penalties for automakers that failed to meet CAFE standards for model year 2019-2021 vehicles. Most recently, Attorney General Bonta led multistate comments urging the EPA to adopt more stringent GHG standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the cities and counties of Denver and San Francisco and the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, and San Jose in filing the letter. 

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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