The California Air Resources Board believes a 50-state rule for reducing smog-forming pollution from heavy-duty trucks could work, according to Mary Nichols, chair of the state’s clean air agency.
“We could succeed on this one,” Nichols told Trucks.com.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in November proposed the first new rules since 2001 to reduce nitrogen oxide. NOx is a poisonous gas that comes from burning fuel at high temperatures.
The Air Resources Board worked with the EPA to create the Cleaner Trucks Initiative. More than 20 state and local air agencies and environmental groups petitioned the EPA for changes in December 2016.
The common ground on proposed rulemaking on NOx emissions contrasts with the board’s stance on the Trump administration’s moves to roll back Obama-era rules for passenger vehicle fuel efficiency.
EPA moves to deregulate
The EPA has been seeking to deregulate areas it believes burden businesses and damage the economy. The Air Resources Board has sued to sustain new greenhouse-gas regulations proposed in 2016 by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Nichols said “nothing is happening” on how or when the federal government will move on greenhouse-gas regulations.
But California is moving ahead with some of the greenhouse-gas regulations, such as a 2020 implementation of rules for truck trailers.
The Air Resources Board and others have sued to prevent the EPA from scuttling a rule that caps the number of so-called gliders that can be built by truck retrofitters. These are new truck bodies mated with older truck engines that create up to 40 times the pollution of newer trucks.
The Cleaner Trucks Initiative has the support of acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist. Nichols described Wheeler as pragmatic and “of the view that EPA exists for a reason other than just to roll back programs.”
Looking to the 2020s
The EPA expects to publish a proposed Cleaner Trucks Initiative rule in 2020 that would take effect in 2024.
“We are always interested in having 50-state standards,” Nichols said. She added that California has “to push standards that are more progressive” than the federal government because of the state’s chronic air pollution.
“There is no distance between (Air Resources Board and EPA technical staffs) in terms of what technologies are available,” Nichols said. “The issue is always cost and time. We have to find ways to promote a faster turnover to the tougher standards.”
The trucking industry supports stronger emissions regulations to avoid “a patchwork of state standards,” according to the American Trucking Associations.
California is pushing for faster adoption of electric trucks with incentives such as a five-year, $356 million electric infrastructure investment by Southern California Edison.
The utility’s plan would create 870 charging sites in its service area by 2024. Most would be in and around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where long lines of smog-belching diesel trucks creep into and out of the ports around the clock.
Under the plan, motor carriers and others would buy the electric trucks, work with suppliers to install charging stations and use SCE-installed electrical infrastructure.
SoCal Edison expects 180,000 electrified medium-duty trucks and vans and 20,000 to 30,000 heavy-duty trucks within its service area by 2030, according to Ron Nichols, the utility’s president.
“Many of these truckers are independent,” Ron Nichols told Trucks.com. “They’ve already gone through the shift to get to lower-emission diesel vehicles.”
An additional incentive to get truckers to move to electric-powered trucks would be an electric-only traffic lane into and out of the ports, “where they can go 40 miles an hour instead of 5 (mph),” he said.