Energy & Environment

Biden administration proposing rule to cut truck pollution

Greg Nash

The Biden administration announced on Monday that it is proposing a new rule that would aim to slash pollution generated by heavy-duty vehicles, including buses and trucks. 

The administration seeks to cut releases of nitrogen oxides — which can contribute to asthma and other lung conditions — from new heavy-duty vehicles by up to 90 percent by 2031 when compared to current standards. 

If finalized, this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action would be the first update to current regulations in 20 years, and the White House said the measure would have significant public health impacts.

According to a White House fact sheet, the rule would prevent about 2,000 premature deaths as well as 6,700 hospital and emergency room visits. It would also result in 18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma, the White House said.

Meanwhile, the EPA said that the rule is also expected to set updated greenhouse gas standards for certain types of commercial vehicles — a measure aiming to mitigate climate change. 

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to climate change in the U.S. — making up 29 percent of planet-warming emissions. Fossil fuels burned by vehicles are also major contributors to air pollution, which can have harmful impacts on human health. 

Monday’s announcement is just the first of several steps the administration is taking to cut pollution from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. 

During a speech announcing the latest steps, EPA Administrator Michael Regan called Monday’s announcement “only the first step in EPA’s three-part plan” to get to a zero-emission freight sector. 

He said the agency would aim to cut air and climate pollution from medium-duty vehicles in its second step. 

In its third step, the agency will establish “new and significantly stronger” greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles starting as soon as model year 2030. 

“We’re taking this three-step approach because the freight and trucking sector is broad and complex and because we cannot afford the health, environmental injustice and climate consequences,” he said. 

The administration said that it plans to take on Monday’s action in one of two ways. 

Under the first, it would ratchet up nitrogen oxide standards for model year 2027 and again in model year 2031. Under the second option, it would tighten the standards only in 2027.  

The first method — which the EPA said would cut more pollution — would be expected to result in 50 percent fewer nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy-duty vehicles overall by 2040. 

By 2045, when most of the current fleet would have turned over, heavy-duty nitrogen oxide emissions would be down more than 60 percent. 

The new efforts were part of a push by several administration officials to highlight investments in cleaner infrastructure, including through the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. 

Vice President Harris joined several Cabinet officials in highlighting portions of that law that provide investments in clean transit.

The bipartisan infrastructure law included some measures aimed at combating climate change, such as a buildout of electric vehicle charges, but some analyses have found it could actually contribute to additional climate change by adding more car lanes and building more roads.

Updated at 1:11 p.m.

Tags Air pollution Michael Regan Pollution

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