Attorney General Bonta: EPA Decision on California Waivers for Heavy Duty Truck Regulations Will Have Life or Death Consequences for Communities Breathing Dirty Air

Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, leading a coalition of 17 attorneys general, urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant, in full, California’s preemption waiver applications for its heavy-duty truck standards. The transportation sector continues to be a major source of NOx, particulate matter, and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, this sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and heavy-duty trucks are the second largest contributor within that sector. California’s heavy-duty truck standards are crucial to the state's ability to address the climate crisis, protect environmental justice communities living near transportation corridors, and meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These standards set stringent exhaust emission limits for NOx and particulate matter, as well as requirements to utilize zero-emission vehicles, and are already paving the way for technology innovation and manufacturing changes across the country and around the world. 

“The EPA's decisions on California’s waivers for its heavy-duty truck regulations will have life or death consequences for communities breathing dirty, toxic air,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Every year, thousands of Californians die prematurely as a result of air pollution. We need immediate action to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants like NOx – for the sake of our communities, our economy, and our planet. I urge the EPA to recognize what so many manufacturers are already acknowledging: California's standards are technologically feasible and critical to drive the nation forward.”

Exposure to pollutants like NOx, particulate matter, and ozone are associated with a range of adverse respiratory effects, including asthma, respiratory inflammation, and decreased lung function and growth. Communities of color and low-income communities, who disproportionately live, work, or attend school near railyards, ports, warehouses, and major roadways are most vulnerable to this pollution and the resulting health impacts. 

Under the Clean Air Act, California may request a waiver of preemption from the EPA that allows California to enforce emission standards for new motor vehicles that are different from, and often more stringent than, currently applicable federal standards. In September 2021, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established several emission standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles and engines in the state, including pioneering exhaust emission standards for NOx that are 90% more stringent than currently applicable federal heavy-duty NOx emission standards. 

These NOx reductions, which are equivalent to taking 16 million light-duty cars off the road, are expected to prevent roughly 3,900 premature deaths and 3,150 hospitalizations statewide. CARB’s Advanced Clean Truck regulations, which aim to accelerate the widespread adoption of zero emission vehicles in the medium and heavy-duty truck sector, are similarly critical for California’s efforts to address climate change and protect public health. By 2040, the Advanced Clean Truck regulations will reduce emissions of NOx by 16.9 tons per day and fine particulate matter emissions by 0.46 tons per day.

In today’s letter, the coalition strongly encourages the EPA to grant CARB’s requests for waivers of preemption for its Heavy-Duty Omnibus regulation, Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, Zero Emission Airport Shuttle Bus regulation, and Zero Emission Powertrain Certification regulation – in full and as soon as possible.

Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as the City of New York in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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