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EPA tightens regulations on pollution from vans, buses and trucks

EPA tightens regulations on pollution from vans, buses and trucks

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday tightened limits on smog-forming pollution from buses, vans, semi-trucks and other trucks, the first time exhaust standards for heavy-duty vehicles have been tightened in more than 20 years.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulation calls for a 48 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide in vehicles by 2045. Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas linked to cardiovascular problems and respiratory diseases like asthma. The regulation obliges manufacturers from model year 2027 to keep their vehicles free of pollutants.

But the new rule isn’t as strict as one proposed by the EPA in March, which would have cut the pollutant by up to 60 percent by 2045. And the agency came close to requiring truck manufacturers to also reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions by burning diesel fuel or converting their fleets to electric models.

That has disappointed many environmental activists, who said federal regulations for vans, buses and trucks should match efforts in states like California and Washington to phase out diesel fuel.

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Michael Regan, the EPA’s administrator, said regulations to address greenhouse gas emissions from trucks would be issued in the spring. He said the release of both regulations together would have taken more time and he felt there was an urgent need to act quickly to limit nitrogen dioxide.

“For us it was important not to wait, but to move forward,” said Mr Regan, noting that around 72 million people live within 200 meters of a truck route. Reducing truck pollution will prevent 3,000 premature deaths and up to 3 million asthma cases.

The action fits into the administration’s overall goal of improving conditions for communities disproportionately burdened by pollution.

“We know these garbage trucks, tractor-trailers and vans are driving through our neighborhoods, affecting children and families,” said Mr. Regan. He called the measure “very good, considering the people in this country who are disproportionately exposed to diesel and truck emissions.”

One of them is José Miguel Acosta Córdova. Mr. Acosta Córdova, who lives in Chicago, said his family and neighbors suffered daily from asthma, heart disease and other consequences of living near the truck traffic pouring out of the distribution centers. But Mr Acosta Córdova, a senior transportation policy analyst at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said the new rule is not enough to help polluted communities like his.

California regulators this year began debating whether to require owners of heavy-duty fleets to switch to zero-emission vehicles. Several other states have signed a multi-state pact to require the sale of 100 percent zero-emission trucks by 2050.

Haulage industry officials said the new rule would be costly, particularly for small truck drivers.

Jay Grimes, director of federal affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said asking truck manufacturers to cut emissions by 2027 is too aggressive.

He also claimed that any regulations requiring greenhouse gas emissions reductions would be costly and the price would likely be passed on to the average consumer.

“Certainly we all want cleaner air, but if independent and small business owners can’t afford the new trucks, they will stick with the older trucks, which won’t be as clean and efficient,” Mr Grimes said. While the new rule dictates that new models built after 2027 must be built with tighter nitrogen oxide pollution controls, truckers don’t have to stop driving older models.

Mr Grimes said the cost of a new emissions control truck is around $200,000, a price he said “makes it difficult for most of our members to invest in new equipment”.

Mr Regan said the EPA is working with manufacturers to see if they could take advantage of federal electric vehicle tax credits, which are part of $370 billion in clean energy provisions under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Environmental activists said they were concerned that the delay in issuing greenhouse gas regulations for heavy trucks would make it more difficult to meet President Biden’s goal of reducing United States emissions by at least 50 percent this decade from 2005 levels . With Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January, the prospects for more climate legislation are bleak, which has put pressure on agencies like the EPA to expand Mr. Biden’s climate agenda through regulations on power plants, car exhaust emissions, and oil and Gas implement wells.

The agency is working on new limits for car pollution, which could accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and additional restrictions on carbon black emitted by power plants. Mr Regan fought back criticism that the agency was slow to move and said a number of planned regulations would be put in place by the spring.

Mr Regan attributed part of the delay to the fact that officials at the agency were analyzing the new law to better understand how to best use the tax incentives. He suggested that some proposed rules could be stricter than the agency initially envisioned, as the tax provisions in the new climate law could allow industry to adopt technologies that cut carbon emissions more quickly and allow them to meet tougher targets .

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