Biden admin says California can require half of heavy trucks sold to be electric by 2035

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The Biden administration cleared the way on Friday for California to require that half of all garbage trucks, tractor-trailers, cement mixers and other heavy vehicles sold in the state be all-electric by 2035. 

“California leads the way once again. Time to stop playing small ball,” the state’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted on Friday. “Half of all heavy-duty trucks sold in CA will be electric by 2035.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported that the Environmental Protection Agency would grant California a waiver that allows the state to phase out diesel-powered trucks.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency granted waivers of preemption Friday regarding four California Air Resource Board regulations related to the state’s heavy-duty vehicle and engine emission standards. 

Following a review and public comment process – and applying the limited authority for review under section 209 of the Clean Air Act – the agency said it determined it was appropriate to grant the requests. 

“Under the Clean Air Act, California has longstanding authority to address pollution from cars and trucks. Today’s announcement allows the state to take additional steps in reducing their transportation emissions through these new regulatory actions,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. 

While California is afforded “broad discretion” to adopt emissions requirements to meet significant air quality challenges, they must seek waivers from the EPA regarding new motor vehicle emission standards. 

The waivers address California programs including the 2018 heavy-duty warranty amendments and the advanced clean trucks regulation that requires manufacturers to produce and sell increasing quantities of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles and near-zero-emission vehicles. 

Newsom’s office said in a press release that the decision allows California to be the “world’s first government to require zero-emission trucks and paves the way for clean trucks and buses across the globe.”

California will require truck manufacturers to accelerate their sales of zero-emission vehicles, setting increasing zero-emission vehicle manufacturing standards starting from 2024 through 2035 that several other states are also choosing to adopt.

The office said that, together, California and those states represent 22% of the national truck market. The makes eight states, per The Associated Press. 

“This is a big deal for climate action. Last year, California became one of the first jurisdictions in the world with a real plan to end tailpipe emissions for cars. Now, thanks to the Biden administration, we’re getting more zero-emission heavy-duty trucks on the roads, expanding our world-leading efforts to cut air pollution and protect public health,” Newsom added. “We’re leading the charge to get dirty trucks and buses – the most polluting vehicles – off our streets, and other states and countries are lining up to follow our lead around the world.”

The transportation sector accounts for nearly 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Newsom has already moved to ban the sale of new cars that run entirely on gasoline by 2035, but those rules are still waiting on EPA approval.

Notably, some in the trucking industry are concerned about how the transition will be for drivers and companies.

“The state and federal regulators collaborating on this unrealistic patchwork of regulations have no grasp on the real costs of designing, building, manufacturing and operating the trucks that deliver their groceries, clothes and goods,” Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Association, said in a statement.

“They will certainly feel the pain when these fanciful projections lead to catastrophic disruptions well beyond California’s borders,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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