California to increase zero-emission heavy trucks

The EPA granted the state a waiver to implement its clean-truck standards.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom leaves the stage after delivering his budget proposal in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced Friday that the state received permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement a plan to ramp up zero-emission heavy-duty truck sales, which will help the state rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is a big deal for climate action,” Newsom said in a statement, adding that the move makes California the world’s first government to require zero-emission trucks.

He also referred to the California Air Resources Board’s decisions last year to require all new cars and light-duty trucks to be emission-free by 2035 and thanked President Biden’s administration.

“Last year, California became one of the first jurisdictions in the world with a real plan to end tailpipe emissions for cars,” Newsom continued. “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. 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.”

Under the plan, known as the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, by 2035, 55% of new trucks sold weighing between 8,500 and 14,000 lbs. — such as full-size pickup trucks, smaller utility trucks, cargo vans, and passenger vans — must be zero-emission. For medium- and heavy-duty trucks between 14,001 and 80,000 lbs., 75% must be zero-emission, and for semi-tractors it is 40%.

EPA approval is significant given that at least six other states have adopted California’s ACT rule. Those include Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Last year, the attorneys general for 17 states and Washington, D.C., called for the EPA to approve the rule.

Zero-emission trucking could save up to $735 million in health care costs around major transportation corridors over the next two decades, according to a report by the American Lung Association issued last year.

Zero-emission vehicles made up almost 19% of sales in California in 2022.

The rule was adopted by California regulators, known as CARB, in 2020 but needed permission from the EPA. CARB acted in accordance with Newsom’s 2020 Zero-Emission Vehicle Executive Order, which requires 100% of heavy-duty vehicles in California, wherever feasible, by 2045.

The Golden State holds particular sway in car emissions since it is allowed to set standards lower than the federal government’s. California was exempted from the relevant Clean Air Act provisions because it had addressed smog in Los Angeles before the act’s car emissions provision was enacted.

But California still must seek EPA waivers for new motor vehicle emission standards. In this instance, CARB requested two waivers for regulations relating to heavy-duty vehicles and engines.

“After reviewing the technical information provided by CARB, reviewing comments submitted by the public, and applying the limited authority for review under section 209 of the Clean Air Act, EPA determined it appropriate to grant the waiver and authorization requests,” the EPA said in a release.