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15 States Sue the NHTSA Over Emissions Penalties

15 States Sue the NHTSA Over Emissions Penalties

Author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

Fifteen states have sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after the government agency agreed to delay the start of dramatically higher penalties for automakers that fail to meet fuel economy standards under former President Donald Trump. Former President Trump and the NHTSA put the rule into effect a week before President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Now, the states, led by New York, have petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reverse the rule.

States Want Automakers To Be Held Accountable

In addition to New York, the other states that are named in the lawsuit include Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, Oregon, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.

When the NHTSA and former President Trump passed the rule last month, it was made at the request of major automakers in the U.S. Auto manufacturers opposed the increased fines, stating that it would cost the automotive industry roughly $1 billion every year to comply with the regulations. As The Detroit News points out, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents major automakers in the U.S., including the Detroit Three, requested former President Trump to delay the fines. The alliance argued that it was too late to make fuel-economy related changes to model years and that it wouldn't incentivize adherence. 

On the other end of the line, safety and environmental advocates criticized the NHTSA and former President Trump's decision. The Union of Concerned Scientists' Dave Cooke took to Twitter to state that the decision resembled "industry handouts," while the Center for Auto Safety called it a "ridiculous" last-minute regulation.

Higher Fines Would Bring More Efficient Cars

The ruling dates back to an order Congress made in 2015 when it ordered federal agencies to adjust civil penalties to account for inflation. Back then, the NHTSA happily issued rules that increased fines from $5.50 to $14 for every 0.1 mile per gallon a new vehicle consumes over mandated standards beginning for the 2019 model year. Former President Trump's decision to delay the rule followed an appeals court ruling that was passed in August that overturned the administration's 2019 decision to suspend the increased fines.

Since the automotive industry as a whole, according to the EPA, has not met federal fuel economy standards since 2015, some brands would be on the hook to pay incredibly high fines if the Biden Administration forces the NHTSA to raise fines. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is now called Stellantis, paid a fine of $79 million for failing to meet fuel economy requirements in 2017. Last October, the American automaker stated that it would be looking at a $583-million fine if the emissions penalties are increased.

With President Biden putting a large emphasis on green policies for the automotive industry, we're certain that officials are looking to make changes that would force automakers to make greener vehicles. Automakers, especially American ones, have put green vehicles on the backburner for decades, choosing to manufacture large pickup trucks to boost profits and paying the relatively small penalties for not meeting fuel economy standards. If they were forced to pay large fines, we're certain that more efficient vehicles would be introduced.

Vineeth Joel Patel
Vineeth Joel Patel
Joel Patel has been covering all aspects of the automotive industry for four years as an editor and freelance writer for various websites. When it comes to cars, he enjoys covering the merger between technology and cars. In his spare time, Joel likes to watch baseball, work on his car, and try new foods
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