TIPRO and Six Trade Groups Challenge EPA and NHTSA Authority to Mandate EVs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are going beyond their statutory authority by enacting rules that effectively force the transition to electric vehicles across the country, argues the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) and six other state oil and natural gas trades.

Earlier this week, Odessa American reported on the trades’ legal action against the agencies, which share jurisdiction over vehicle tailpipe emissions:

“Filing amicus curiae or ‘friend of the court’ briefs, the groups say the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be going beyond their congressional authority to force auto manufacturers to alter their fleets away from vehicles powered by internal combustion engines to fleets dominated by EVs.”

TIPRO was joined by Texas Oil & Gas Association, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Texas Royalty Council and the Austin-based American Royalty Council. Collectively, the groups represent a major share of American fuel production – and hail from states that would experience drastic economic consequences if EPA and NHTSA are permitted to forcibly destroy demand for refined fuels.

The trade groups argue that EPA and NHTSA should not be permitted to mandate vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act that are “purposely biased against internal combustion engine vehicles,” according to reporting from Odessa American:

“Citing constitutional grounds and the limited scope of the Clean Air Act, the energy organizations are challenging the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Tailpipe Standards Rule in Texas vs. EPA and are disputing the NHTSA’s right to impose its Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards to require that EVs make up 50 percent or more of the new vehicles sold by 2030.”

In their amicus brief, the trade groups drew parallels to the legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan that resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia v. EPA. In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, the Court ruled that under the Clean Air Act, Congress had not given the EPA the power to incentivize “generation shifting” at power plants by implementing certain emissions caps that would effectively require plants to transition from coal to natural gas, or from natural gas to renewables. The trade groups argue that EPA and NHTA are, again, misusing the Clean Air Act – but, this time, to force a country-wide fleet transition to all-electric vehicles.

Despite legal scrutiny, Reuters reports that NHTSA is set to release additional vehicle emissions regulations later this month to complement EPA’s proposed tailpipe emissions rule. With just a few days left in the month and NHTSA acting administrator Ann Carlson poised for a contentious Senate confirmation process, NHTSA’s new rules may slip past the April deadline.

Bottom Line: As a reminder, NHTSA and EPA are both staffed by environmental attorneys with a penchant for backdoor climate policymaking. If Carlson’s nomination to NHTSA administrator is any indication, the Biden administration will continue to push the limits of regulatory authority to enact climate policy across the “whole of government.”

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