Carry on Trucking
A latest rule will clean up exhaust from latest diesels, a serious health threat.
Last week, EPA finalized its latest rule imposing emission limits on latest heavy trucks. The brand new regulation was clearly an enormous undertaking. EPA’s formal announcement of the brand new rule is 1100 pages long. The accompanying summary of comments on the proposed rule and EPA’s responses is one other 2000 pages. That is partly as a result of the complexity of controlling emissions from trucks, provided that there is no such thing as a equivalent of the catalytic converter for diesels.
EPA’s evaluation of environmental justice indicated that its latest rule would scale back disparities in pollution levels between whites and other people of color. The evaluation drew upon quite a few published studies, but in addition included evidence that the agency itself had assembled. To take only one example, to estimate the proportion of scholars of color near major freight routes, EPA used an Education Department database covering all U.S. public schools, and combined that with a GIS system to map schools along with one other database of roadways. EPA also used satellite studies of the effect of the COVID lockdown, with its traffic reduction, on local pollution, which found that the lockdown resulted in the best pollution reductions in areas with higher concentrations of individuals of color. EPA concluded that “non-Hispanic Blacks will experience the best reductions in PM2.5 and ozone concentrations consequently of the standards.”
This evaluation is impressive in its detail. Two other features of the evaluation are noteworthy. First, it goes beyond simply ensuring that the brand new regulation will avoid disproportionate harm to people of color. As an alternative, EPA is clearly taking an interest in whether the brand new regulation actually remedies existing inequalities, versus simply not making them worse. This seems to transcend the present executive order on environmental justice.
Second, the agency was careful to delimit the role of the environmental justice evaluation in its actual final decision. The agency specified that its environmental justice evaluation was intended to comply with EPA’s internal guidance. Nonetheless, EPA said, the brand new regulatory standards were set under the statutory requirements (that are primarily keyed to feasibility), not the agency environmental justice guidance.
Environmental justice advocates are unsatisfied by the rule. Specifically, in keeping with the Washington Post, they’d “hoped for a rule that will speed up electrification by pushing fleet owners to interchange their diesel-burning trucks and buses with zero -emission alternatives.” The proposed rule did contain a version giving manufacturers credits for selling zero emissions vehicles. EPA left the creditss out of the ultimate rule.
To search out out why, you will have to dig pretty far into the comments document. On pages 1034 to 1035, EPA gives three reasons. The primary two are relatively comprehensible: (1) the credits aren’t crucial to make compliance with the standards feasible, and (2) depending on sales of zero emission trucks, the credits might undermine the inducement to scale back emissions from other trucks.
The third reason is a little bit of a puzzler: “Testing requirements to make sure battery and fuel cell performance over the useful lifetime of a ZEV are essential to make sure the zero-emissions tailpipe performance for which they’re generating NOX credits.” The purpose is a bit unclear for the reason that operation of batteries and fuel cells aren’t support to supply NOx. Some later discussion (pp. 1089-1090) suggests that the true concern is the sturdiness of batteries and fuel cells, which could limit adoption or prevent them from reaching the massive used truck market. Which may keep older, high polluting diesels on the road longer.
Of those arguments, the second seemed most persuasive. Should you assume that there will probably be a surge of zero emissions trucks no matter this rule, giving credit for those vehicles would serve no purpose and would allow manufacturers to avoid reducing emissions from latest diesels.The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act after the notice of proposed rule making can have made this appear to be a more essential prospect.
Overall, EPA seems to have weakened the proposed requirements a bit. It’s hard to know whether the agency found criticisms from industry persuasive, was concerned about raising prices during difficult economic times, or thought that the changes might improve the foundations possibilities of surviving judicial review. Or perhaps EPA thought it was O.K. to loosen up the foundations for diesels because intervening developments just like the Inflation Reduction Act will shift trucking away from diesels. Even in its final form, the rule does seem to vow large health advantages; whether the advantages might have been made even larger is difficult to know.
California’s latest truck standards are tougher than EPA’s. EPA postponed making a choice on whether to grant a waiver and permit the California standard to enter effect. That will probably be the following battleground.