Biden EPA limits pollution from trucks as fleet electrifies

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Rayan Makarem worries about the air her two-year-old daughter breathes. More than 100 diesel-powered trucks drive through neighborhoods every 30 minutes, spewing harmful pollutants linked to asthma and other health conditions.

Pollution in their community, and similar communities across the country, will be curbed under climate change The Environmental Protection Agency finalized the decision Friday. The rule would require manufacturers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new trucks, delivery vans and buses. These limits reduce deadly particulate matter and lung-damaging nitrogen dioxide from such vehicles.

“I have a 2-year-old, so I actually try to avoid playing outside when the air is bad,” said Makarem, who lives in Kansas City, Kan., and is a spokesperson for the Moving Forward Network. ” he said. An organization that advocates for reducing pollution in disadvantaged communities. “We hope this is a step in the right direction.”

The EPA’s rules follow stricter emissions limits for gasoline-powered vehicles, aimed at accelerating the nation’s halt in the transition to electric vehicles. This is the first time in more than 20 years that the federal government has cracked down on pollution from diesel trucks.

The rules don’t go as far as Makarem and other environmental justice advocates would like. Moving Forward Network called on the EPA to require all new trucks to be zero-emissions by 2035.

But EPA officials said the rule does not mandate the adoption of specific zero-emissions technologies. Instead, manufacturers will be required to choose from several clean technologies to reduce emissions, including electric trucks, hybrid trucks, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

still, rules bring benefits Poor black and Latino communities are disproportionately exposed to diesel exhaust from highways, ports, and vast distribution centers. These regions have higher rates of asthma, heart disease, and premature death due to air pollution.

“An estimated 72 million Americans, many of them people of color and many low-income people, live near freight truck routes,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said on a call with reporters. “Reducing emissions from heavy vehicles means cleaner air and less pollution. It means safer and more vibrant communities,” he added.

One change from last year’s proposed rule is that the final rule would not require truck manufacturers to significantly increase production of clean vehicles until 2030 or beyond. That’s a slower schedule than California’s truck pollution regulations, which require significant increases starting this year.

However, the EPA says the final rule still achieves greater emissions reductions than the original proposal. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion tons, the equivalent of more than 13 million tanker trucks worth of gasoline, the agency said.

The regulation could face legal challenges from the trucking industry, which is seeking to slow the country’s transition away from fossil fuels.

Truck manufacturers have publicly said they are working to reduce emissions. Volvo plans to be “fossil fuel-free” by 2040, and Daimler Trucks has set a goal of selling only carbon-neutral trucks and buses in the U.S., Europe and Japan by 2039.

But behind the scenes, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation’s largest truck manufacturers, lobbied to weaken the EPA proposal. The industry is also leading a campaign against California’s advanced clean truck regulations, which 10 other states have adopted.

The association’s president, Jed Mandel, expressed concern Friday that the final rule “will be the most difficult, costly and potentially destructive large-scale emissions rule in history.”

However, not all truck manufacturers are against this standard.

Diesel engine maker Cummins said in a statement that the policy is “ambitious” but the industry “needs national regulatory certainty to successfully move toward a decarbonized future.” Jonathan Miller, senior vice president of public affairs for Volvo Group North America, said in a statement that the company is “fully aligned with the EPA’s goal of accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles.”

Electric trucks are still rare on roads across the country. Of the 12.2 million trucks in the United States, about 13,000 are electric, according to an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Mike Nichols, a truck driver in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, said he worries the frigid temperatures will drain his electric truck’s battery. “Batteries don’t do well in cold weather; it’s just a law of physics,” Nichols said.

But other truckers say they love driving electric cars, praising the vehicles’ handling, acceleration, smoothness and quietness.

“Diesel was like a college wrestler,” truck driver Marty Boots, 66, of South El Monte, Calif., previously told The Washington Post. “And electrics are like ballet dancers.”

In an effort to pre-empt the EPA’s rules, industry groups released a report last week arguing that transitioning to electric trucks could be astronomically costly. A study by the Clean Freight Coalition, which includes the American Trucking Associations, concluded that 100% electric truck charging stations nationwide will cost at least $620 billion by 2040.

“The members of the Clean Freight Coalition are committed to improving the environment and making zero-emission trucks a reality,” said Jim Mullen, chief strategy officer at the National Motor Freight Transportation Association, the study sponsor. “The purpose of this study was not to make anyone uncomfortable. It was to bring reality into the discussion.”

But environmentalists accused the industry of using flawed methodology and fear-mongering.

“Every assumption that is made in the study is the one that carries the highest cost,” said Dave Cook, senior auto analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This is an irrational analysis specifically designed to generate large numbers.”

Jacqueline Gelb, vice president of energy and environmental affairs for the American Trucking Associations, defended the report’s methodology and findings. He noted that the study did not include the cost of the electric trucks themselves.

Electric big rigs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or two to three times more than a diesel truck. However, electric trucks are more energy efficient and have lower maintenance costs, making them much cheaper to operate over time. If you buy an electric truck in 2032, when the rule fully takes effect, you could save between $3,700 and $10,500 a year in fuel and maintenance costs, according to the EPA.

The Biden administration is also providing billions of dollars worth of subsidies for electric trucks and their charging infrastructure, primarily through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021 and the Climate Change Act of 2022. The government this month announced a detailed strategy to create a “national network” of charging stations along busy freight corridors.

As for passenger cars, President Biden has pledged to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the United States by 2030. But more than two years after Congress passed the infrastructure law, Congress has only provided funding for construction. Seven EV charging stations were installed in four states, reflecting technical challenges and bureaucratic delays. (In all, there are about 175,000 EV chargers in the country.)

Still, Craig Segal, vice president of environmental group Evergreen Action, said the freight strategy is a “historic document” that gives the trucking industry confidence in investing in an electric vehicle future.

He added that truck manufacturers “need to pivot from complaining about lack of infrastructure to using this strategy to solve their own problems.”

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