Calif. weighs contentious clean truck rule

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2019

California has proposed the nation’s first-ever regulation to help boost sales of zero-emissions trucks, but it faces a tough road ahead, with opposition coming from both environmentalists and industry.

That dynamic was on full display yesterday at a California Air Resources Board meeting in Sacramento, where 104 people signed up to testify on the proposed rule.

The testimony lasted more than two hours, and the vast majority of speakers raised concerns about the proposal. Environmentalists said it didn’t go far enough. Industry officials said it went too far in some cases and imposed burdensome new reporting requirements.

At issue is the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, which would require manufacturers to sell certain percentages of zero-emissions trucks starting in 2024 and 2030. It also would require large businesses in the state to report on how they use their trucks (Climatewire, Oct. 23).

Under the proposal, about 75,000 electric trucks would be on California’s roads by 2030, representing about 4% of trucks in the state overall.

But environmentalists want to see faster progress to meet the state’s climate and air quality goals. They want electric trucks to represent 15% of all trucks in the state by 2030, and they object to the exemption of a certain class of pickup truck.

The transportation sector is California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for roughly 40% of the state’s total.

Environmental justice groups say strengthening the rule is essential for combating what they call “diesel death zones,” or areas where diesel trucks contribute to ozone and particulate matter pollution, which are linked to asthma, cancer and other health conditions. Many of these areas are in low-income communities of color.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice posed in front of a truck emblazoned with the words “100% electric! ZERO emissions!” and circulated the hashtag #StopDieselDeath on Twitter.

Echoing their sentiments inside the hearing room was Ricardo Cavarello, a 17-year-old resident of Inland Empire, an area of Southern California that has become a hub for warehouses.

“I live in an area that feels like there’s a warehouse in every corner,” Cavarello said, adding, “Diesel trucks are coming out of the warehouses near houses and schools. When I was younger, I attended numerous doctors due to my asthma condition. I had to carry my inhaler everywhere.”

Cavarello concluded by imploring the board to strengthen the rule “so that this terrible air quality doesn’t affect more unsuspecting children.”

Ray Pingle of the Sierra Club California sought to reinforce this point, saying, “We have a moral responsibility to move as quickly as we can to reduce childhood asthma and save lives, especially in disadvantaged communities.”

Two local air pollution regulators — the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District — agreed with the green groups that the proposal should be bolstered.

Industry concerns

On the other side of the debate was a trade association representing the construction industry, which raised concerns about the proposal’s reporting requirements and potential costs.

“We don’t think there’s been enough outreach to the people who are gonna be required to report under this provision,” said Mike Lewis of the Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition. “And I think there’s thousands and thousands of businesses who have no idea they’re gonna have to report.”

Lewis added, “What you say it costs and what it really costs are two different things. And we’ve already got some really crushing requirements in our industry.”

Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, sought to walk a fine line in his testimony. He expressed doubt that manufacturers would be able to find enough buyers for their zero-emissions vehicles. But he suggested the industry could meet some sales targets, such as those for school buses, ahead of schedule.

“We want the ACT rule to be a success. We want and need the rollout of ZEV technologies to be successful,” Mandel said. “But our members need to know that they will recoup their investments in developing ZEV technologies.”

Sasan Saadat, a research and policy analyst at Earthjustice who attended the meeting, said in a brief phone interview with E&E News that he didn’t think the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association’s concerns were valid.

“They are capable of making many more zero-emission trucks, and the potential for them to meet a much higher sales target is supported by the record,” Saadat said.

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the CARB, said she recognized the divisions the proposal has fostered.

“We understand that members of the community, environmental organizations, want us to do more faster. Members of industry want us to go less fast,” Nichols said.

“So this is not a no-brainer by any means,” she added. “In fact, it’s a big-brainer. It requires us to really use our intellectual abilities and our technical knowledge to make a wise set of regulations here.”

The board will hold another meeting on the proposal next year. It hopes to issue a regulation in 2022 and begin implementation in 2024.

Action in other states

The CARB meeting came on the same day officials from eight states and the District of Columbia committed to accelerating the adoption of electric trucks and buses.

The officials from D.C. and the eight states — California, Connecticut, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont — signed a statement of intent to develop a joint action plan on clean medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, framed the effort as a bulwark against President Trump’s inaction on climate change.

“As the federal government continues to ignore the public health of our citizens and the impacts of climate change, state leadership in pursuit of decarbonizing the transportation sector is needed now more than ever,” Dykes said in a statement.

The collaboration among the states was facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a consortium of air quality officials from the Northeast.

Coralie Cooper, deputy director of NESCAUM, previously told E&E News that Northeast states would consider whether to adopt California’s truck rule (Energywire, Dec. 9).