Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden tightens auto emissions rules

Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden tightens auto emissions rules 1

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Biden tightens auto emissions rules

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Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news focused on energy, the environment and beyond. Subscribe here:

Today we’re looking at the Biden administration’s new car emissions standards, the logistical challenges of the president's net-zero order and year one of the administration’s conservation initiative. 

For The Hill, we’re Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Write to us with tips: and Follow us on Twitter: katanaRachelFrazin and katanaBudrykZack.

Let’s jump in.


EPA raises vehicle mileage standards

The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters is seen in Washington, D.C., on June 3

© Greg Nash

The Biden administration has put forward its most ambitious vehicle mileage goals to date, raising standards for cars and small trucks while reversing a Trump-era rollback.

Under the final rule released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday, the federal government will require cars and other light-duty vehicles to achieve a 40 miles per gallon standard over the next five years.

How does this compare to past rules? That's up from the 32 miles per gallon required by the Trump administration in 2020 and slightly higher than an original goal of 38 miles per gallon put forward by the Biden administration.

The EPA standards, which will apply to model years 2023-2026, are projected to avert more than 3 billion tons of emissions — equivalent to the majority of nationwide carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 — between now and 2050.

Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation of all kinds comprise about 28 percent of emissions nationwide, making it the biggest emitter of any single sector.

And it’s not the first reversal of a Trump emissions rollback: The Biden administration previously reversed another Trump-era policy, allowing states to adopt stronger emissions rules than the federal government. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have voted to adopt the stricter standards set by California.

In addition to tightening the Trump-era emissions standards, the final EPA rule is also stricter than that of an Aug. 10 draft by 10 grams per mile. During the period the standards cover, they would cut emissions about 28 percent, according to an analysis from the Environmental Protection Network.

Read more about the final rule here.


Climate goal faces federal challenge

Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden tightens auto emissions rules 4

President Biden’s executive order setting the ambitious goal of having the government reach net-zero emissions by 2050 faces enormous challenges — including simply getting the entire federal workforce on board.

The order represents one of the most important efforts yet to reduce U.S. emissions amid growing fears the world is running out of time to prevent devastating changes from global warming.

The federal government is the largest single consumer of energy in the country, so getting its array of buildings and fleets of vehicles carbon-neutral in the next 30 years would be a massive achievement. It’s also one that climate groups, which prefer an even more ambitious timeframe, say the U.S. desperately needs to make.

So what’s the challenge? The problem is that getting the vast federal bureaucracy to change is difficult, and it will rely on thousands of government managers and workers doing their part even as they do their separate day-to-day work.

“Tens of thousands of people — all busy, all under pressure — and their bosses tell them that what matters is how much money they spend, domestic content and small business. Now you want me to do sustainable too?” Steve Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at The George Washington University Law School, said in laying out the real-world challenges.

He noted that there aren’t any rules governing the sustainability directive yet — and the government’s staff hasn’t been trained.

 Read more about the hurdles here.


White House hails conservation progress

Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden tightens auto emissions rules 5

© Getty Images

The White House hailed what it called “significant progress” on national conservation goals in the first year of its America the Beautiful initiative in a report Monday, including the restoration of two national monuments.

The initiative, announced in May, is a 10-year federal conservation program aiming to eventually release annual “State of Nature” reports and develop an “American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas” of land and water management data. It served as an update to the administration’s earlier “30×30” initiative, which aimed to preserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, although this remains a stated goal of the program.

In its progress report, the administration highlighted several steps it took on conservation over the course of 2021. It specifically pointed to the restoration of the full boundaries for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah, both of which were shrunk under the Trump administration.

The national monument restoration was widely praised by Native American organizations, which had lobbied for the move. However, it was sharply criticized by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Utah state officials, who accused the administration of freezing them out of the decision.

The report also cites the Biden administration’s proposal in November to curtail logging in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, another reversal from the Trump administration. It further points to the suspension of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Read more about the report here.





And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: It happens.


That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s energy & environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.

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