Feds Renewed Fuel-Economy Standards Will Help NJ Reduce Smog

Tom Johnson | January 17, 2017 | Energy & Environment
The EPA decision to stay the course with 2012 pollution standards gives the Garden State another way to fight greenhouse-gas emissions

In a move that may be challenged by a new administration, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will retain tough fuel-economy standards for new cars and light trucks through 2025.

The standards are part of the Obama administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions to combat climate change, but have been criticized as overly ambitious by some industry lobbyists.

For New Jersey, where the transportation sector is the biggest contributor of pollution increasing the likelihood of global warming, the new standards are important to achieving the state’s own goals to reduce its carbon footprint.

By 2050, New Jersey has set a target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent from 2006 levels, according to a law adopted during the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine.

The fed’s decision to maintain the current standards was finalized on Friday by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who found a wide variety of available technologies to meet the standards for new model years 2022-2025. The analysis included an independent review by the National Academy of Sciences, among other reports.

“At every step in the process the analysis has shown that the greenhouse-gas emission standards for cars and light trucks remain affordable and effective through 2025, and will save American drivers billions of dollars at the pump while protecting our health and the environment,’’ McCarthy said in a press release issued by the agency.

The standards are projected to result in average fleet-wide consumer fuel-economy sticker values of 36 miles by model year 2025 — 10 mpg higher than the current fleet average.

The rules were first adopted in 2012, applying to car models in 2017-2025, but were subject to a midterm evaluation, and proposed for final adoption last November.

The American Energy Alliance, an industry trade group, took issue with the agency’s decision, calling the new standards unrealistic and make it difficult for average Americans to afford cars.

“The Obama administration is trying to cement an agenda that the American people have rejected — not just at the polls, but also through their vehicle choices,’’ said Chris Warren, a spokesman. “We look forward to the Trump administration taking a more level-headed approach that puts fuel-economy standards in line with the needs of American families.’’

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, argued otherwise. “The EPA’s plan to keep these standards is even more critical now that the Trump administration may be the largest single impediment to dealing with climate change worldwide,’’ he said.

Environmentalists in New Jersey have been frustrated at the state’s slow efforts to develop the charging station infrastructure for electric cars, or zero-emission vehicles.

Having strong fuel economy standards is especially necessary in New Jersey because more than half of the state’s air pollution comes from sources like cars and trucks, Tittel noted.

The state has never achieved the federal health-quality standard for ground-level ozone, or smog, a pollutant that is partly formed by vehicle exhaust baking in the hot summer sun.