EPA announces stricter tailpipe pollution rule for trucks, vans and buses


Manufacturers would have to reduce harmful exhaust pollution from new trucks, delivery vans and buses under a long-awaited regulation the Biden administration finalized Tuesday, a rule that could protect public health in poor communities but doesn’t. it goes as far as many defenders hoped.

The regulation marks the first time the federal government has attempted to crack down on emissions from these diesel vehicles in more than two decades, and is aimed at improving the lives and health of Americans living along highways, ports and transportation hubs. expanding distribution. Exposed to heavy diesel exhaust, these predominantly poor, black and Latino communities suffer higher rates of asthma, heart disease and premature death.

“This is a very aggressive action to protect the health of 72 million Americans and people who live on these trucking routes,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in an interview with The Washington Post. Regan said the EPA rule is the first part of a three-step plan to reduce pollution and truck and bus emissions that contribute to global warming. In the spring, the administration plans to publish a separate set of greenhouse gas rules for heavy-duty vehicles.

The new tailpipe rule, which will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will apply beginning with the 2027 model year, was the focus of strong lobbying by vehicle manufacturers, and reflects the Biden administration’s fight to crack down on pollution without provoking a legal backlash.

The regulation is likely to result in real health benefits, but it will surely disappoint many public health advocates and liberals, who had been pushing the EPA to be much tougher. It’s not as stringent as California’s pollution standards, which activists had held up as a model for federal policy.

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The EPA said the new rule would require truck manufacturers to reduce lung-damaging nitrogen dioxide emissions by 80 percent below the current standard. the california rule calls for a 90 percent cut.

In a setback for California’s ability to set pollution standards stricter than federal limits, the EPA also announced it would hold off making a decision until early next year on whether to grant the state’s request for the waivers it needs to make. Follow your own policies. . The delay leaves the state’s truck pollution rules in limbo and affects the other states that have already committed to following California’s regulations.

Tuesday’s finalized rule differs from EPA’s proposed earlier this year, and as of this writing, the agency appears to have leaned toward a compromise.

His proposal last March detailed two possible paths: one closer to the California rule and a weaker alternative favored by truckmakers. In an interview, Regan said the final rule has parts of both “to ensure that the final standards are as strong as possible, go into effect as soon as possible, and last as long as possible.”

EPA officials said the new pollution limits would prevent up to 2,900 premature deaths, 6,700 hospital admissions and emergency department visits, and 18,000 cases of childhood asthma by 2045.

The agency estimated that the new rule would generate significant economic benefits, outweighing its costs by about $29 billion each year.

A analysis by the nonprofit Council on Clean Transportation International, found that while stricter truck pollution standards would help people across the country, Midwestern and Southern states would benefit the most , relative to its size, due to its busy roads and large concentrations of people living nearby.

It’s not known for sure what exactly the new rule will mean for neighborhoods exposed to heavy diesel exhaust. Experts said whether the regulation makes deep emissions cuts depends in large part on whether it closes some of the loopholes that have weakened previous federal rules.

The new rule does include an important change: for the first time, it regulates the pollution emitted by engines that burn diesel at low speeds, idling and in intermittent traffic. These emissions, which are more likely to affect people living in neighborhoods congested by truck traffic, were previously excluded.

But truckmakers and their lobbyists have lobbied the EPA for other allowances that would make it easier for them to meet the new standards on paper, even if they beat them in the real world.

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, an industry group, warned the Biden administration not to set the bar too high, arguing that compliance would increase the cost of trucks, causing buyers to delay making purchases. new purchases and would leave the oldest, dirtiest, diesel-burning vehicles on the market. highway for years.

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United Auto Workers had also raised concerns. The union urged management to adopt a less stringent standard for nitrogen dioxide out of concern that higher truck prices would cost its members jobs.

If the EPA grants California’s waiver requests next year, giving the state the ability to enforce its own limits on truck pollution, the truckmakers are expected to file a lawsuit. Industry representatives have said they would prefer to follow a national standard and have tried to discourage other states from adopting California’s stricter rules.

Trucks and buses that burn diesel are the main pollutants. Although their emissions have declined over the decades as technology has improved, of all the vehicles on the country’s roads, they remain the largest contributor to unhealthy air. The nitrogen dioxide they release reacts with chemicals in the atmosphere to create other pollutants, such as ozone and fine particles, that harm human health.

Earlier this year, an American Lung Association report estimated that switching to zero-emission trucks would prevent 66,800 premature deaths over the next 30 years.

Environmental justice advocates said they hoped for a rule that would speed up electrification by pushing fleet owners to replace their diesel-burning trucks and buses with zero-emissions alternatives.

The new pollution policy is a “short-term fix,” said José Miguel Acosta Córdova, senior transportation policy analyst with the Chicago-based Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the city’s southwest, is close to major highways and railroads and has some of the dirtiest air in Chicago.

“There is no amount of contamination that is good, any exposure is bad, even if they are cleaner trucks than before,” Córdova said.

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