On Monday, I noted that Team Obama plans to set new-car fuel-economy standards for model years (MYs) 2017-2025, a nine-year period, despite the fact that the authorizing statute, the Energy Policy Conservation Act, 49 U.S.C. 32902(b)(3)(B), restricts the setting of fuel-economy standards to “not more than 5 model years.” No matter how hard or long government lawyers squint at the text, 5 does not mean 9. In the words of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the standards proposed for MYs 2022-2025, which reach 54.5 mpg in 2025, are “outside the scope of law.”
Since writing that post, I have learned that Team Obama will try to finesse the legal problem by basing the MYs 2022-2025 fuel economy standards solely on EPA’s authority to set emission standards under CAA Sec. 202. This is Bizarro World jurisprudence.
EPA will be setting de-facto fuel-economy standards, pretending that GHG standards are not fuel-economy standards, but specifying CO2 reduction percentages that the agency avows, and everybody knows, convert directly into percentage increases in fuel economy.
Nobody but the judicial activists who gave us Massachusetts v. EPA can say with a straight face that when Congress enacted CAA Sec. 202, it meant to transfer the power of setting fuel-economy standards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to EPA. Nor would any non-Bizarro lawyer contend that CAA Sec. 202 authorizes EPA to set fuel economy standards as many years into the future as the agency sees fit, despite EPCA’s explicit limit of “not more than 5 model years.”