Biden EPA curbs pollution from trucks in effort to electrify fleets

Ryan Makarem worries about the air his 2-year-old daughter breathes. More than 100 diesel-powered trucks rumble through their neighborhood every half hour, spewing harmful pollutants linked to asthma and other health conditions.

Pollution in their community — and others across the country — will be curbed under climate change The Environmental Protection Agency's rule was finalized Friday. The rule requires manufacturers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new trucks, delivery vans and buses. Those limits would reduce the release of deadly particulate matter and lung-damaging nitrogen dioxide from such vehicles.

“I have a 2-year-old now, and we try to avoid playing outside when the air is bad,” said Makarem, who lives in Kansas City, Kan., and is a spokeswoman for the Moving Forward Network, a group that advocates for reducing pollution in underserved communities. “Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction.”

The EPA rule follows stricter emissions limits for gas-powered cars, aimed at accelerating the nation's transition to electric vehicles. This is the first time in more than two decades that the central government has cracked down on pollution caused by diesel trucks.

The rule does not go as far as Maharem and other environmental justice advocates would like. The Moving Forward Network urged the EPA to require all new trucks to be zero-emissions by 2035.

However, EPA officials said the rule would not mandate the adoption of a specific zero-emissions technology. Instead, manufacturers should reduce emissions by choosing a number of cleaner technologies, including electric trucks, hybrid trucks and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Still, Destiny is beneficial Poor, black, and Latino communities are disproportionately exposed to diesel emissions from highways, ports, and sprawling distribution centers. These communities experience high rates of asthma, heart disease and premature deaths from air pollution.

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“72 million Americans, mostly people of color or low-income, live near freight truck routes,” EPA Administrator Michael Reagan said in a call with reporters. “Reducing emissions from our heavy vehicles means cleaner air and less pollution. This means safer and more vibrant communities,” he added.

One change from the proposed rule released last year: The final rule does not require truck manufacturers to dramatically increase production of cleaner vehicles after 2030. That represents a slower timeline than California's truck pollution controls, which mandate steep increases starting this year.

But the final rule will achieve even greater emissions reductions than the original plan, according to the EPA. The company said it would avoid 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases — equivalent to more than 13 million tanker trucks' worth of gasoline emissions.

The regulation could face legal challenges from the trucking industry, which could delay the nation's transition away from fossil fuels.

Obviously, truck makers say they're committed to reducing emissions. Volvo plans to be “fossil-free” by 2040, while Daimler Trucks has set a target of selling only carbon-neutral trucks and buses in the US, Europe and Japan by 2039.

But behind the scenes, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, which represents the nation's largest truck makers, tried to weaken the EPA plan. The industry has also led a campaign against California Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation10 other states have adopted it.

The association's president, Jed Mandel, expressed concern that Friday's final rule “will end up being the most challenging, expensive and disruptive heavy-duty emissions rule in history.”

But not all truck makers are opposed to the standards.

Diesel engine maker Cummins said in a statement that while the policy was “ambitious,” the industry “needs nationwide regulatory commitment to successfully move toward a decarbonized future.” “The company is fully committed to the EPA's mission to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles,” said Jonathan Miller, Volvo Group North America's senior vice president of public affairs, in a statement.

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Electric trucks are still rare on the country's roads. Of the 12.2 million trucks in the U.S., nearly 13,000 are electric Analysis by Environmental Defense Fund.

Mike Nichols, a truck driver in Chippewa Falls, Wis., said he worries the cold temperatures will drain the batteries of electric trucks. “Batteries don't work well in cold weather, that's the laws of physics,” Nichols said.

But other truckers say they prefer electric driving, appreciating the vehicles' handling, acceleration, smoothness and quietness.

“Diesel is like a college wrestler,” Marty Boots, a 66-year-old trucker in South El Monte, Calif., previously told The Washington Post. “And electricity is like a ballet dancer.”

In an effort to preempt the EPA rule, an industry group published last week Report That said, switching to electric trucks could have astronomical costs. A study by the Clean Freight Coalition, which includes American trucking associations, concludes that charging stations for 100 percent electric trucks nationwide would cost at least $620 billion by 2040.

“Members of the Clean Freight Coalition are committed to improving the environment and getting zero-emission trucks,” said Jim Mullen, chief strategy officer of the National Motor Freight Association, a study sponsor. “The purpose of the survey is not to scare anyone. This was to put the scale of reality into debate.

However, environmentalists have accused the industry of using a flawed methodology and indulging in fear-mongering.

“Every assumption made in the study is an assumption that results in higher costs,” said Dave Cook, senior automotive analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It's a ridiculous analysis that's specifically designed to produce a big number.”

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

A large electric rig can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or two to three times more than a diesel truck. But over time, electric trucks have become much cheaper to run due to higher energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. An electric truck buyer in 2032 — when the rule is fully implemented — could save between $3,700 and $10,500 annually in fuel and maintenance costs, according to the EPA.

The Biden administration has provided billions of dollars worth of subsidies for electric trucks and their charging infrastructure, mainly through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021 and the Climate Act of 2022. This month, management Released a comprehensive strategy To create a “national network” of charging stations along heavily traveled freight routes.

As for passenger cars, President Biden has pledged to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S. by 2030. But today only seven EV charging stations are operational in four states, reflecting technical challenges and bureaucratic delays.

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

Truck makers, he added, “must move forward from complaining about the lack of infrastructure to using this strategy to solve their own problems now.”

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