US Senate votes to reject rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions on highways


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that would overturn a federal agency’s rule requiring states to measure and set declining targets for greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles using the national highway system.

The Federal Highway Administration rules were declared unlawful last month by a federal judge but the decision could be reversed upon appeal.

President Joe Biden’s administration is eager to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in an effort to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change.

The Senate voted 53-47 in favor of a resolution that would reject the rules, with Democrats Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester and Joe Manchin joining Republicans. The U.S. House of Representatives has yet to vote on the measure.

The White House said Biden would veto the measure if it is sent to him, and Republicans would almost certainly be unable to muster the votes needed to overturn a veto.

The White House noted the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with most coming from vehicles on U.S. roads. In a statement opposing the Senate action, it called the rule “a common-sense, good-government tool for transparently managing” emissions from transportation.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said the administration lacked authority to write the rules and said the vote is “a clear message to the administration that we will continue to hold them accountable for executive overreach.”

Last month U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, said he agreed with Texas’ lawsuit “the rule was unauthorized.”

The FHWA has noted it did not mandate how low targets must be and instead gave state transportation departments flexibility to set targets that were appropriate as long as the targets aimed to reduce emissions over time.

The agency said it would assess whether states make significant progress toward achieving their targets but the rule does not impose penalties for those who missed their targets.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is seen on a highway ahead of the July 4th holiday, in New York, U.S., July 2, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

The FHWA said the rule was “essential” to the Biden administration target of net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. The final regulation did not require states to set declining targets to align with the 2050 goal.

In 2018, the Trump administration repealed a rule issued under former President Barack Obama requiring states to track greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on the nation’s highways.