Energy Exchange

EPA must protect California’s life-saving clean truck rules

By Larissa Koehler and Alice Henderson

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency is hearing from scientists, mothers, healthcare professionals, public health and environmental advocates – including EDF – and many others who submitted comments in support of California clean truck standards.

As EPA works toward finalizing federal heavy-duty emission standards proposed earlier this year, the agency has been accepting public comment on its notices considering Clean Air Act preemption waivers for California clean truck standards, including the Advanced Clean Trucks and Heavy-Duty Omnibus NOx (low-NOx) standards. Several other states have already adopted these standards in recent years to reduce health-harming pollution from new freight trucks and buses. The ACT requires an increasing percentage of new trucks and buses to be zero-emission through 2035, while the low-NOx standards aim to reduce nitrogen oxides from new diesel trucks.

Taken together, these protections will prevent almost 5,000 premature deaths, save California billions of dollars in health care costs and create thousands of new jobs by 2035. But the Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association — a trade group of the nation’s largest engine manufacturers, including Volvo and Daimler — has opposed these safeguards at the state and federal level, and is now challenging in court California’s ability to implement the low-NOx emission standards.

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Now is the time for California to go bold on electric trucks and buses

There is no single fix to the climate, air quality, political and economic challenges facing California, but the state’s early action to electrify its fleet of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is one example of smart policy that can move us in a positive direction. As California’s legislative session concludes in August, lawmakers and the California Air Resources Board should take the next steps to implement the electric transportation transition with tools that are right at their fingertips.

Nationally, the transportation sector is the largest source of climate emissions and a primary contributor to local air pollution and the negative health and economic impacts that go along with it. Medium- and heavy- duty vehicles – the trucks and buses that move our goods and people – make up a small portion of total wheels on the road, but they produce an outsized portion of all emissions. In California, MHD vehicles make up just 6% of vehicles on the road, but produce 72% of the state’s health-harming nitrogen oxide emissions and 21% of all transportation climate emissions. Transitioning these vehicles to zero-emission models would make a big difference for air quality and the manufacturing economy, a sector where California is becoming a leader.

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Rogue methane leaks from idle wells carry four big takeaways for policymakers

An ongoing methane leak involving several long-term idle wells in Southern California is raising safety concerns for nearby residents and highlights an important climate issue. Southern California has some of the worst air quality in the country, and leaks like these compound the negative impacts on some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Both in California and across the country, many hundreds of thousands of end-of-life oil and gas wells are idle. That means that they are just sitting around awaiting proper site closure, which involves plugging the wells with cement to prevent gases or liquids from escaping and threatening the environment and public health.

Several such wells were recently found to be leaking methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that often escapes from oil and gas facilities alongside other toxic pollutants — in the Morningstar section of Bakersfield, CA. Local residents are concerned about the possibility of subsurface methane migration to homes and other structures in the vicinity.

While CalGEM and other agencies work to investigate and remediate the situation, four takeaways are already emerging:

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California policymakers want feedback on how to make it easier to finance electric trucks, buses

Update: The California Air Resources Board is hosting a public work group meeting on May 4 at 1:00pm PST to discuss the new Proposed Zero Emission Loan Pilot within the Truck Loan Assistance Program. Stakeholder input is needed to determine how loans should work under SB372. There will be future meetings on other elements of SB372 to come. Please click here for more information.

Last year the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 372, an important new bill that will help finance the next generation of zero-emission trucks. The law directs the California Air Resources Board and the California Pollution Control Financing Authority in the State Treasurer’s Office to offer financial and non-financial tools to help owners of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses pay for the costs of replacing their diesel-fueled fleets with cleaner, ZEV alternatives.

This bill is meant to bring key stakeholders to the table — environmental justice groups, truck manufacturers, fleets, financiers, nonprofit organizations and others — to find the solutions that will work for fleets to transition to zero-emission MHD vehicles.

Based on conversations EDF had with fleets, financiers and others, about what they need to invest in ZEV trucks, we discovered that it is critical to bring stakeholders to the table in order to find out what works, recognizing that multiple options are needed, because when it comes to fleets, one size does not fit all.

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Smart charging should be integral part of a national EV charging network

Electric trucks are coming, and they’re coming fast. Just before 2021 drew to a close, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts joined California, Oregon and Washington to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission trucks with the adoption of the Advanced Clean Truck program. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, securing up to $67 billion in direct investment in zero-emission trucks and buses, as well as several critical tax credits to support the purchase and production of zero-emission trucks. And more than 150 truck fleets are either operating zero-emission trucks or have trucks on order.

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New electricity rate will make truck and bus charging cheaper, cleaner in California

State regulators just approved a first-of-its-kind charging rate for electric trucks and buses in northern California that will make it more affordable for fleet operators to make the switch from diesel to electric.

This new “dynamic” rate changes on an hourly basis, offering more opportunities for fleet operators to charge their vehicles when electricity is cheap (for example, when the grid is underutilized or when clean electricity is plentiful). In 2019, state regulators authorized Pacific Gas and Electric Company to offer a commercial electric vehicle time of use rate; regulators also directed the utility to request a more dynamic rate option, which is what was just approved. PG&E offering a menu of options tracks with EDF’s recent recommendation that multiple options — to accommodate many different operational use cases — are needed to make commercial vehicle electrification as affordable and clean as possible.

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