WASHINGTON ––The U.S.Environmental Protection Agency won tentative –– and unusually unified –– praise from industry and environmentalists for its plan to reduce emissions rules for heavy-duty trucks.
The EPA aims to cut nitrogen oxide emissions, a major precursor to smog. The agency also seeks to ease “overly complex and costly requirements that do little to actually improve the environment” in the current nitrogen oxide rules, acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a conference call during which the EPA revealed few details of its proposal.
Though clear-air advocates acknowledged that the plan could reduce pollution, reductions, they wanted to see more detail in light of the Trump administration’s track record of weakening or eliminating environmental regulations.
“This may be the first rulemaking initiated by the Trump administration that is actually designed to reduce air pollution,” said Paul Billings, senior vice president for public policy at the American Lung Association. “The details are important and there are many questions.”
Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said it’s time to update the 18-year-old standards in part because heavy-duty trucks have become a larger contributor to harmful emissions overall, especially in cities and near ports with heavy truck traffic.
The policy update also comes as California regulators develop tougher truck requirements for the state. They say nationwide rules are also needed because many large trucks that haul goods –– and pollute –– in California were purchased elsewhere.
California is further along in drafting new nitrogen oxide standards than the EPA, and the federal agency plans to work with the state on the issue, Wehrum said. “I can’t say we’ll agree with everything they’re thinking and want to do but, you know, that’s nature of the regulatory process,” he said.
Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, said the proposal represents a chance to modernize how the agency oversees big-rig emissions. “We support the move toward looking at the program to ensure that we have better, more real-world focused emissions reductions,” he said.
The association represents 30 heavy-duty engine and truck manufacturers.
The EPA may change its laboratory testing procedures to reflect more driving situations when emissions may be higher but aren’t captured by the current lab tests, Wehrum said. It will also review whether onboard equipment could replace the lab tests used to monitor whether trucks comply with anti-pollution requirements.
Dave Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the push reflects a broad recognition that further reductions of nitrogen oxide emissions are possible and future standards could better reflect true emissions levels on the road.
“This would be a welcome change of pace,” Cooke said in an email. “At the same time, I’m wary of such a pivot and am deeply skeptical of this administration’s ability to actually follow the science and publish a regulation in the best public interest.”
(Jennifer A. Dlouhy contributed to this report.)
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