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Biden administration moves to curb emissions from heavy trucks

On Monday, March 7, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to curb nitrogen oxide and carbon pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers, and other heavy trucks. This is the first time in 20 years that tailpipe standards for the biggest polluters on the road have been tightened.

According to EPA officials, the pollution from diesel-powered trucks has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and ethnic minorities who live near highways, ports, or other heavily trafficked areas. The surge in home deliveries during the pandemic has worsened air pollution in some neighborhoods near the many warehouses built recently to satisfy America’s rise in online shopping habits.

“Seventy-two million people are estimated to live near truck freight routes in America, and they are more likely to be people of color and those with lower incomes,” said Michael S. Regan, the EPA administrator. 

“These overburdened communities are directly exposed to pollution that causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems, among other serious and costly health effects. These new standards will drastically cut dangerous pollution by harnessing recent advancements in vehicle technologies from across the trucking industry as it advances toward a zero-emissions transportation future.” 

EPA’s new draft rule would require heavy-duty trucks to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by 90 percent by 2031, as well as to continue to reduce carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2024. According to EPA estimates, these new limits could prevent up to 2,100 premature deaths, 6,700 hospitalizations and ER visits, 18,000 cases of asthma in children, 78,000 lost days of work, and 1.1 million lost school days by 2045. Moreover, the economic benefits of the rules could be up to $250 billion.

Public health officials welcomed this first step in EPA’s “Clean Trucks Plan”  – a series of clean air and climate regulations which will be developed in the following three years to reduce pollution from heavy vehicles. “Cleaning up trucks is a critical step to achieving the president’s vision not only of environmental justice but also the cancer moonshot,” said Paul Billings, a senior vice president at the American Lung Association. “Diesel gas is a known carcinogen.”

However, many truckers and manufacturers consider the new rule too stringent and costly. “This new standard simply may not be technologically feasible,” said Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. “We’re worried about the cost. There is a potential of adverse impacts on the economy and jobs.”  

Regardless of the costs though, EPA’s new step towards the transition to a future of zero-pollution vehicles is timely and should be implemented as soon as possible in order to protect the health of millions of people and the environment. The rule will be open for public comment for 46 days, and hopefully finalized by the end of 2022. 

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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