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Biden EPA proposes tougher pollution limits for heavy trucks



The Biden administration is proposing tougher pollution regulations for new tractor-trailers that would clean up smoky diesel engines and encourage new technologies over the next two decades.

The proposal published by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday would require industry to reduce emissions of smog- and soot-forming nitrogen oxide by up to 90% per truck compared to current standards by 2031. Emissions can cause respiratory problems in humans.

Although truck makers are working on battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, the EPA says the proposal is not a requirement for zero-emission trucks. Instead, the agency says there are pollution control devices being developed that can continue to use diesels while purifying the air.

The EPA is also setting stricter limits for emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Current standards would be updated from 2027 and new, more stringent standards would begin in 2030. The requirements were last updated in 2001, with the next big step expected in 2024.

The new, stricter standards would not apply to older trucks, which would limit the impact of the new rules.

EPA officials say the new requirements are in line with an executive order from President Joe Biden to clean up transportation, which is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Transportation emits 29% of gases, and heavy trucks represent 23%. Biden is trying to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to combat the effects of climate change.

The new standards would bring widespread air quality improvements, especially in areas already exposed to heavy truck traffic, officials said.

“An estimated 72 million people live near highway freight routes in America, and they are most likely to be people of color and low-income people,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan, in a statement.

The agency says it will offer several options to reduce pollution from heavy trucks and buses, and consider public feedback before developing final standards by the end of this year.

“The EPA has engaged with stakeholders and identified several options in the proposal that address the robustness of the standards, the timeline for phasing in the standards, options to encourage early adoption of clean technologies, and enhancements to emissions safeguards,” the agency said in a statement.

The EPA would also tighten requirements for school buses, transit buses, commercial delivery trucks and short-haul tractors, areas where the shift to zero-emission vehicles is more advanced.

Early versions of all-electric tractor-trailers are now on sale, and the industry is testing trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells that generate electricity.

The EPA says new greenhouse gas standards could help accelerate the transition to zero-emission trucks and buses that weigh more than 26,000 pounds.

Currently, battery electric trucks have limited ranges and it takes a long time to recharge the batteries. For hydrogen fuel cell trucks, there are few filling stations and pollution is emitted while most hydrogen is now made from natural gas. But researchers are working on what is called “green hydrogen” which would be made using electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar.

Under pollution standards, manufacturers would be required to certify that their trucks meet the strictest requirements or face penalties. The EPA also wants them to extend warranties on emissions controls, making them more cost effective for trucking companies.

New exhaust treatment systems would cost more, as would warranties, which would likely be passed on to truck and bus buyers. But the EPA says reducing pollution by the strictest option would save the country up to $250 billion from 2027 to 2045, mostly by preventing deaths and reducing health care costs. .

The EPA said the stricter standards would avert up to 2,100 premature deaths, reduce hospital admissions and emergency room visits by 6,700 and prevent 18,000 cases of asthma in children. .