Oct 2, 2023 - News

Texas sues EPA over emissions standards

A lot of cars in traffic on a highway in Dallas

We emit a lot in Texas. Photo: Emil T. Lippe for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Texas Attorney General's Office is leading a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's pollution standards for cars and light-duty trucks in a lawsuit that could have a lasting impact on the automotive industry and the Texas power grid.

The latest: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently heard arguments in the case.

Why it matters: The lawsuit could determine how much the EPA can regulate the auto industry — and the results could have a drastic impact on air quality across the country.

  • Transportation accounts for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA — more than any other industry.

The big picture: A 2021 revision to the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set vehicle emissions standards for cars and trucks manufactured between 2023 and 2026.

  • Fifteen states — led by Texas and supported by advocates for the oil and gas industry — are challenging the rule, arguing it could affect the reliability of power grids and national security.

The other side: Several Democrat-led states and cities — along with clean-air groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association — have joined the case in support of the EPA, arguing that the petitioning parties don't have standing to challenge the regulation.

The intrigue: ​​The group challenging the EPA has argued that an increase in electric vehicles could damage the reliability of power grids, but grid experts have said that EVs could actually make grids more resilient by supplying electricity back to the network when it's needed most.

Of note: This lawsuit isn't about fuel economy or efficiency. Those standards are set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What they're saying: "We have a real opportunity here grounded in technological development, innovation and advancement to reduce and even eliminate harmful air pollution," Peter Zalzal, the Environmental Defense Fund's associate vice president for clean air strategies, tells Axios.

  • "It's vital to protecting public health and helping to address climate change," he said.
  • The Texas Attorney General's Office didn't respond to requests for comment, but it said in March that EPA rules could "undercut states' authority and efforts to properly regulate their own environment."

Meanwhile: In a separate case, Ohio v. EPA, several Republican-led states and advocates for the oil and gas industry are challenging a waiver that has allowed California to set emission standards that go beyond the federal standards set by the EPA.

Plus: A new Texas law will require residents to pay $400 to register a new EV for two years and $200 for renewal to make up for the state's lost revenue from gasoline taxes.

What we're watching: The U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately decide the case.

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