Biden Administration's EV Push Faces Legal Challenge From Wide Industry Coalition

Biden wants half of all U.S. car sales to be electric by 2030

Vice President Kamala Harris charges an electric vehicle in 2021 (Getty Images)
June 13, 2024

A large coalition of industry associations representing energy producers, consumers, auto dealers, farmers, and convenience stores are planning to file federal legal petitions challenging President Joe Biden's aggressive electric vehicle push, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Led by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the American Petroleum Institute (API), and major producers of corn-based biofuel, the coalition will file three petitions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, taking aim at recent federal vehicle tailpipe emission regulations. The petitions are slated to be filed Thursday with detailed briefs being filed on a later date, an industry official told the Free Beacon.

According to the petitioners, the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its congressional authority when issuing the regulations, which they say ultimately serve as a de facto ban on traditional gas-powered passenger cars.

"We are confident the Court will agree that Congress has not authorized EPA to effectively ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars and overhaul the U.S. economy in such a major way," AFPM president and CEO Chet Thompson said. "We support the continued drive to make our cars and trucks cleaner and more efficient, but EPA must set standards lawfully."

The sweeping legal challenge comes as the Biden administration seeks to force a greater number of EV sales nationwide, even though EVs remain far pricier than gas-powered cars. Data released by auto industry group the Alliance for Automotive Innovation show 9.5 percent of total car purchases in the United States last year were electric or plug-in hybrids—a slight uptick from 7 percent in 2022.

The EPA unveiled the finalized tailpipe regulations, the most aggressive multi-pollutant emission standards ever issued in U.S. history, in late March. Biden said at the time that the regulations would help the nation meet his ambitious goal of ensuring 50 percent of car sales are electric by 2030.

Under the regulations, automakers will be forced to rapidly curb their products' hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter emissions beginning with model year 2027 vehicles. The new rules apply to new passenger cars, light trucks, and larger pickups and vans.

To meet the stringent standards, automakers must expand their production of zero-emission vehicles including battery-powered EVs, plug-in hybrids, traditional hybrids and fuel cell cars. One low cost model outlined by EPA projects that up to 56 percent of new light-duty car sales in the Unites States will be electric and another 13 percent will be hybrid by 2032.

"Today, we are taking action to protect American consumers, U.S. manufacturing workers and our nation’s hard-won energy security from this intrusive government mandate," API senior vice president and general counsel Ryan Meyers said Thursday. "EPA has exceeded its congressional authority with this regulation that will eliminate most new gas cars and traditional hybrids from the U.S. market in less than a decade. We look forward to making our case in court."

API, AFPM, and the other groups filing legal challenges to the rule argue that the policy, which will have sweeping economic and national security consequences, must be explicitly approved by Congress.

They further argue that, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must set specific standards for vehicles to individually meet, not a fleetwide average automakers must achieve, as put forward by the regulations.

And, finally, they argue that the regulations discriminate against gas-powered vehicles since they fail to factor in upstream or lifecycle emissions of zero-emission vehicles.

"Congress never authorized EPA to reverse-engineer an electric vehicle mandate," Michael Buschbacher, a lawyer representing a group of the petitioners, said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "And for good reason. Forced electrification of the vehicle fleet is one of the least cost-effective decarbonization strategies out there."

"By contrast, renewable fuels are a feasible and affordable means of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and improving vehicle efficiency. EPA’s unexplained decision to ignore renewable fuel pathways in its final rule is arbitrary and capricious."

In addition to AFPM and API, more than two dozen industry associations joined the petitions Thursday, including the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Energy Alliance, Energy Marketers of America, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, auto dealers operating dozens of dealerships nationwide, Clean Fuels Development Coalition, and 13 state corn industry groups.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.