Newer and stronger rules on truck pollution still do not meet air quality targets

CLIMATEWIRE | The EPA’s proposal to limit toxic pollution from heavy trucks is stronger than anything else before. However, state and local air quality agencies say they are not aggressive enough to meet the federal regulator’s own clean air standards.

The National Clean Air Agency Association (representing 115 regional air pollution control agencies in 41 states, 4 regions, and the District of Columbia) states that more than one-third of the U.S. population does not meet federal air quality standards. I presume that I live in the area. .. One of the reasons: truck traffic.

Currently, the EPA is moving to limit the emissions of heavy trucks, so the standards for particulate air pollution are becoming stricter. However, NACAA says the draft truck rules are too weak to help the state meet current air quality standards. Not to mention the new standards.

“The EPA is increasing the number of areas that do not meet health-based air quality standards, while at the same time proposing rules that are not adequately protected against the most important causes of their exact pollution.” Miles Keo says. , NACAA Executive Director.

Heavy trucks are the largest mobile source of nitrogen oxides and can react in the atmosphere to form toxic pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter. While states can reduce emissions from fixed sources such as power plants and factories, they have little authority to regulate emissions from cars and trucks under federal jurisdiction.

That is, without federal regulations to adequately curb NOx emissions from 18-wheeled vehicles, delivery vans, and dump trucks, the state lacks a way to comply with air quality standards, analysts say.

“In the 1970s, we hadn’t started reducing emissions yet, so we had more opportunities to reduce emissions,” said Julian Marshall, a professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. “But the easy things have already been dealt with, so [pollution] The sources they can control are getting smaller and smaller. “

The EPA last updated its federal standards for NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the health of the people has deteriorated. Exposure to toxic air pollution is associated with many illnesses, including an increased risk of premature death and poor lung development in children. Transportation is also the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EPA, color communities and low-income areas are at the mercy of their pollution because they are disproportionately located near highways, freight railroads, railroad yards, and warehouses.

President Joe Biden has promised to address these disparities, in part by updating emission standards for heavy-duty trucks. However, the EPA’s proposed rules, announced in March, were disappointing to environmental and public health professionals who wanted stronger regulations ().ClimatewireApril 14th).

Experts have urged the EPA to issue truck rules in line with California’s recently enacted Heavy Duty Omnibus Program, along with advocates who live and work in these heavily polluted areas.

The EPA proposal outlined two approaches. The first option reflects California’s rules, but it’s not very powerful. The second, less stringent option is more in line with what truck and engine manufacturers are pushing (GreenwireMarch 8).

“This administration has prioritized dealing with racial inequality,” said Ray Minjares, who heads the International Council on Clean Transport’s heavy-duty vehicle program. “And we don’t see it in this rule.”

Community members say they continue to meet with EPA staff at least once a month, but feel overlooked ()ClimatewireMay 16th).

Meanwhile, the EPA proposes to tighten particulate matter limits this summer after the Advisory Board has conducted a critical review recommending stricter exposure limits, both annual and daily. intend to do something(Greenwire,March 22). Although the EPA has no plans to tighten NOx limits on its own, these reference pollutants, like ozone, are one of the major causes of particulate matter.

“The proposed EPA rules actually leave people in the river as long as they get these NOx reductions,” Keogh said. “Our agency cannot squeeze it out of the sources we have, and we need the Federal Reserve to set sufficient protection standards for these trucks.”

For example, in Phoenix, Arizona, there are few chimneys in between, Keogh said.

“The haze over the mountains comes from mobile sources,” he said. “It comes from cars and trucks.”

Another example can be found in Wisconsin. There are some areas that do not meet federal air quality standards. The largest source of NOx emissions in Wisconsin is from vehicles moving within and within the state. And according to the 2017 National Emissions Inventory, almost half of these emissions come from heavy trucks.

EPA spokesman Taylor Gillespie pointed out that the EPA’s track rules are proposals, not final regulations.

“People who just closed last week have joined and the comment period has been extended to provide feedback,” she said in an email. “We are currently reviewing these comments and look forward to addressing our concerns in the coming months.”

Gillespie also stated that this rule is the broader first step of the agency. schedule To deal with pollution from trucks.

The air is clean, but “the gap remains”

Researchers and affected people have long understood the health effects of living and working behind the heavy-duty truck industry, but new research has increasingly revealed the systematic nature of inequality. ..

A study Published in the journal this year Environmental Science and Technology Letter We have found a correlation between redlining (a discriminatory mortgage valuation practice since the 1930s) and air pollution levels in black settlements.

“This is what many communities have said for decades that the risks of air pollution are not equally perceived among members of our society,” said Marshall, co-author of the study. I did. “And ethically, that’s another reason for itself to worry about air pollution. This has this aspect of fairness.”

According to Marshall, one of the reasons for this disparity is that in the 1960s, the federal government routed highways directly and often intentionally via blacks and low-income earners.ClimatewireDecember 8, 2021).

another study Published in the journal last year Minutes of the National Academy of Sciences Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, people stopped driving and found that the overall level of toxic pollution was the lowest in black, Latino, and low-income areas.

However, even before the pandemic, these communities still experienced higher levels of pollution compared to the levels faced by the majority of whites and wealthy areas. This is partly because passenger car traffic decreased during the pandemic, while heavy trucks did not.

Similarly, draft In a policy assessment of particulate matter rulemaking, EPA staff will experience a proportionally greater benefit to the black community from stricter particulate matter air quality standards, but earlier due to toxic pollution compared to other groups. We have found a high rate of mortality risk.

“Over time, the air has become cleaner, but the gap remains,” Marshall said. “Therefore, like diesel emissions, we really need to find the causes that cause some groups to be more exposed than others and really look for opportunities to address those causes.”

The EPA plans to announce final truck emission rules by the end of the year.

Reprinted from E & E News With the permission of POLITICO and LLC. Copyright 2022. E & E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals. Newer and stronger rules on truck pollution still do not meet air quality targets

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