“This is a very aggressive action to protect the health of 72 million Americans and people living on these highway freight routes,” Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement. Washington Post interview. Regan said the EPA rule is the first part of a three-step plan to reduce pollution and global warming emissions from trucks and buses. In the spring, the administration plans to release 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 from the 2027 model year – has been the subject of intense lobbying by automakers, and it reflects the Biden administration’s fight to clamp down on pollution without inviting a legal backlash.
The settlement is likely to lead to real health benefits, but it is sure to disappoint many public health advocates and liberals, who had been pushing the EPA to be much tougher. It’s not as strict as California’s pollution regulations, 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 emissions of lung-harming nitrogen dioxide from vehicles by 80% below the current standard. The California rule calls for a 90% reduction.
In a setback for California’s ability to set pollution standards that are stricter than federal limits, the EPA also announced it would delay decision-making until early next year on whether to grant, at the request of the State, the derogations it needs to apply its own policies. . The delay leaves the state’s truck pollution rules in limbo and affects other states that have already signed on to follow California’s regulations.
Tuesday’s finalized rule differs from the one proposed by the EPA earlier this year, and in writing it, the agency appears to have weighed in on the trade-off.
Its proposal last March detailed two possible paths – one closer to the California rule and a weaker alternative favored by truck manufacturers. In an interview, Regan said the final rule contains elements of both “to ensure that the final standards are as stringent as possible, come into effect as soon as possible, and will last as long as possible.”
EPA officials said the new pollution limits will prevent up to 2,900 premature deaths, 6,700 hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and 18,000 cases of childhood asthma by 2045.
The agency estimated that the new rule would bring significant economic benefits, exceeding its costs by about $29 billion each year.
An analysis by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation found that while tougher truck pollution standards would help people across the country, states in the Midwest and South would benefit the most, compared to to their size, due to their busy highways and large concentrations of people living very close to here.
It’s unclear exactly what the new rule will mean for neighborhoods exposed to heavy diesel exhaust. Experts said whether the regulations significantly reduce emissions largely hinges on whether they fill in some of the loopholes that had weakened previous federal rules.
The new rule includes a significant change: for the first time, it regulates pollution emitted by diesel engines at low speeds, idling and in traffic jams. These emissions, which are most likely to affect people living in neighborhoods congested with truck traffic, were previously excluded.
But truck manufacturers and their lobbyists pushed the EPA to give them other allowances that would make it easier for them to meet the new standards on paper, even if they exceed them in the real world.
The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, an industry group, has warned the Biden administration against setting the bar too high, arguing that compliance would increase the cost of trucks, forcing buyers to delay new purchases and leaving older, dirtier, diesel-burning vehicles on the road for years.
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The United Auto Workers also expressed concern. The union has urged the administration to adopt a less stringent standard for nitrogen dioxide, fearing that rising truck prices will 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, truck manufacturers would have to sue. Industry representatives have said they would prefer to follow a national standard, and they have tried to discourage other states from adopting California’s stricter rules.
Diesel trucks and buses are the main polluters. Although their emissions have declined over the decades as technology has improved, of all the vehicles on the nation’s roads, they are still the biggest 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, which harm human health.
Earlier this year, a report by the American Lung Association estimated that switching to zero-emission trucks would prevent 66,800 premature deaths over the next 30 years.
Environmental justices advocates said they had hoped for a rule that would speed up electrification by pushing fleet owners to replace their diesel trucks and buses with zero-emission alternatives.
The new pollution policy is a “short-term fix,” said José Miguel Acosta Córdova, senior transportation policy analyst for the Chicago-based Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in the city’s southwest, is near major highways and railroads and has one of Chicago’s dirtiest airs.
“There’s no amount of pollution that’s good — any exposure is bad — even if it’s cleaner trucks than they were before,” Córdova said.
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