California regulators approve rules to cut pollution from ships, trucks

By Debra Kahn for POLITICO 08/27/2020 09:31 PM EDT

California officials approved two major new rules Thursday to reduce emissions from trucks and ships, billing them as essential steps toward complying with federal air pollution standards.

The rules address both conventional and greenhouse gas emissions but are particularly aimed at reducing diesel pollution at ports and in traffic corridors near disadvantaged communities, as well as the emission of nitrogen oxides that create persistently high ozone levels in pockets of the state.

What happened: The California Air Resources Board’s “truck omnibus” rule, some seven years in the making, is an update to emissions standards that are nearly two decades old. It includes tighter emissions limits for nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, new testing procedures and warranty requirements for medium- and heavy-duty trucks starting in model year 2024. NOx standards would tighten again in model year 2027, to reduce emissions 90 percent below current levels.

It’s the second part of a trio of new rules aimed at reducing emissions from trucks: CARB passed the first part, a sales mandate for electric trucks, in June, and plans to pass an accompanying rule that would set purchasing mandates for the trucking industry by late 2021.

Federal context: With the trucks rule, California is getting out ahead of U.S. EPA, which has been working on a Cleaner Trucks Initiative but has delayed its timetable and now isn’t expected to start the rulemaking until next year.

California’s rule had originally proposed letting manufacturers meet an optional, less-stringent standard for NOx through 2026 if they pledged to meet it nationwide, but the board decided Thursday to remove that option.

“Our hope is that EPA will largely align with the omnibus regulation when they propose their Cleaner Trucks Initiative next year,” said Kim Heroy-Rogalski, head of CARB’s mobile source control branch.

Officials from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C. and two multi-state associations of air officials also testified in support of the rule and said that absent federal action, they would consider adopting California’s rule under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act.

“EPA’s process to date has been unconscionably slow,” said Tracy Babbidge, bureau chief of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Truck engine manufacturers said the rule would be too onerous, while the Western States Petroleum Association and natural gas companies said the rule shortchanges the potential for near-term emissions reductions that could be achieved now by natural gas-fueled vehicles instead of waiting for ultra-low NOx and electric trucks to come on the market.page1image61200384page1image61196160

The state calculates the rule would have a cost of $4.49 billion and benefits of $36.8 billion between 2022- 2050, including the avoidance of 3,900 premature deaths. It would increase trucks’ purchase price by an average of $6,000 per vehicle.

Ships, too: CARB also approved Thursday a separate “at-berth” rule for ships that requires them to plug into shore power when at port. It builds on a 2007 rule that covers cruise ships, container ships and refrigerated cargo ships by tightening the rule’s compliance requirements and extending them to cover oil tankers and cargo ships that carry wheeled vehicles, known as “roll-on, roll-off” ships, starting in 2025.

That rule was also opposed by oil companies, while port operators were cautiously on board. Cruise ship operator Carnival and shipping company Maersk praised the board’s decision to push back the new requirements for container, reefer and cruise ships from 2021 to 2023.

Federal hurdles?: The truck rule will require a Clean Air Act waiver of the sort the Trump administration has moved to withdraw from California for its greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger vehicles. The ship rule, which is operating under an existing waiver, may require a new one when the rules take effect in 2023; the board directed the agency Thursday to ask CalEPA for an opinion on whether the rule can be implemented under the current waiver.

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