EPA seeks new truck pollution rules; says air won’t suffer

Christopher Davidson
November 17, 2018

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will announce plans to propose new rules to significantly decrease emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide from diesel-powered heavy-duty trucks, an agency official said.

In a conference call with reporters, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the "Clean Truck Initiative" in a move that air regulators and the trucking industry have advocated for years.

The EPA said in a statement it had scheduled a formal announcement on November 13 with industry executives and state environmental officials regarding its "Cleaner Trucks Initiative", but did not immediately disclose details. "We are doing it because it's good for the environment".

Under then-Administrator Scott Pruitt, the EPA previous year also proposed repealing tighter emissions standards for "glider" trucks, which use older engines that emit dozens of times as much soot and contaminants as newer ones.

The proposed "Cleaner Trucks Initiative" is drawing expressions of hope but skepticism from some environmental groups, especially because the EPA under President Donald Trump already has proposed relaxing emissions requirements for light passenger cars and trucks by freezing them at 2020 levels. But the effort on nitrogen oxide (NOx) is backed by industry, which wants to avoid a patchwork of federal and state standards, the official said.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are already projected to decline over time, but any new reductions will help clean up winter and summer pollution even more.

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"The devil's always in the details", Billings said.

Almost two decades have passed since the EPA last updated its standards for emissions of nitrogen oxide, or NOx, that govern the nation's heavy-duty trucking fleet.

Bill Wehrum, head of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, took issue with the notion that Tuesday's announcement was one of the few actions the Trump EPA had taken to actually combat air pollution. The new standards could cut emissions during high-pollution phases, he said. Obama administration officials said they planned to work with states such as California, the industry and others toward creating an updated national set of standards. California wants the requirements to become progressively more stringent through 2026.

But on August 29, at the urging of automakers anxious to avoid lawsuits and the fracturing of the USA auto market, the White House and California announced "a shared goal" of a single standard that would apply nationwide. Heavy-duty trucks include semi trucks and other large pickup trucks, buses and recreational vehicles, according to the EPA definition. Its preferred option would freeze them so the fleet would be required to average 30 miles a gallon in real-world driving from 2021 to 2026.

AP writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed from Washington.

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