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Feds roll out rules to cut truck pollution by 25%

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — President Barack Obama’s administration is rolling out new emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses that White House officials say will cut U.S. carbon pollution by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons and reduce the nation’s oil consumption by up to 84 billion gallons by 2027.

The new rules mandate 25 percent lower carbon emissions and fuel consumption for semitractor-trailer rigs, delivery trucks, school buses and similar vehicles between model years 2021 and 2027. The regulations are intended to build on prior rules that required companies to reduce the pollution by trucks and buses that were made in the model years between 2014 and 2018 by approximately 270 million metric tons.

The White House said the proposal also calls for locking in standards for heavy-duty pickups and vans to become 2.5 percent more efficient annually between model years 2021 and 2027. The rules will be paired with regulations that call for U.S. automakers to achieve a 54.5 miles-per-gallon fleetwide average for cars and other light duty vehicles by 2025, although federal regulators have said that auto companies may miss the goal.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said “the standards promote a new generation of cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by encouraging the development and deployment of new and advanced cost effective technologies through model year 2027.

“These standards are ambitious and achievable and they’ll help ensure the American trucking industry continues to drive our economy and at the same time protect our planet.”

The first phase of the emission rules for trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.

McCarthy said the Obama administration is moving to lower emissions from trucks and buses because they account for 20 percent of greenhouse gases and oil use in the U.S.

“Heavy-duty vehicles are the biggest increase in the United States transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use, and transportation is the second-largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.,” she said.

“While these vehicles are a vital cog that keeps the economic engine running in our country, new technology and innovations that we’re seeing give us an opportunity to help continue their good work while also using resources more efficiently,” the transportation chief said.

Environmentalists cheered the Obama administration for moving to increase the fuel efficiency of trucks and buses on U.S. roads.

“The final rule will reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions by 1.1 billion tons and yield deep cuts in other air pollutants, such as smog-forming emissions and fine particles, which cause serious health problems and premature death,” William Becker, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Clean Air Agencies said in an email.

“These emissions reductions will benefit, literally, every community across the nation,” Becker continued. “The beauty of the rule is that the cost of the necessary improvements, which are generally off-the-shelf technologies, will be paid for by the savings associated with the increased fuel efficiency — about one-third better than today — in a matter of a couple of years.”

The trucking industry offered a more measured response to the new rules, pointing to the 10-year phase-in period for higher emissions standards and saying that it hoped the new regulations would not be too disruptive to truck companies.

“While today’s fuel prices are more than 50 percent lower than those we experienced in 2008, fuel is still one of the top two operating expenses for most trucking companies,” said Chris Spear, president of the Arlington, Va.-based American Trucking Associations.

Companies that rely on the trucking industry said they can live with the new emission rules.

“The continued focus on improving fuel efficiency will unlock new innovations that protect our environment and spur economic growth,” Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, said in a statement that was released by the Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, which is composed of Pepsi, Con-way Inc., Cummins Inc., Eaton Corporation, FedEx Corporation, Wabash National Corporation and Waste Management, Inc.

“For a long time, an efficiency gap has forced consumers to pay the freight for inefficient shipping. These standards will save consumers money, just as other energy efficiency goals have saved families and businesses money on the total cost of owning and operating cars, light-duty trucks, and home appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters,” said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing