Clean trucks rules are good for New Jersey

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A new, independent report shows that zero-emission trucks and buses will cut health-harming pollutants in New Jersey, protect lives and provide $11.6 billion in societal benefits to the state over the next 30 years through a Clean Trucks New Jersey (NJ) program. But to maximize these benefits, the Garden State needs to ensure that parts of the program are adopted by the end of 2021.

The Clean Trucks NJ program consists of two programs: The Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, which the state has begun a rulemaking process on; and the Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) rule, which the state is expected to begin rulemaking on soon. The two rules complement each other and will help reduce emissions in New Jersey. The ACT requires manufacturers to produce and sell an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles while the HDO rule establishes more stringent limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides, a contributor to smog.

The report, developed by MJ Bradley & Associates (MJB&A) and commissioned by NRDC and the Union of Concerned Scientists, with New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance and Clean Water Action serving as advising contributors to the project, shows that the cleaner fleet will result in improvements to air quality and resident’s health, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, financial savings for fleet owners and lower electricity bills for New Jersey citizens.

Public health and economic benefits for NJ

Pollution from cars, trucks and buses are a leading source of harmful air pollution in New Jersey. While the state’s 423,000 commercial trucks and buses account for less than 10 percent of the vehicles on the road, they have an outsized impact on public health and are responsible for 44 percent of the emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 39 percent of the fine particulate matter (PM) from all vehicles.

In addition to contributing to air pollution, the transportation sector accounts for 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey. Electrifying the transportation sector is vital to achieving the state’s climate goal of 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 (relative to 2006 levels) under the Global Warming Response Act.

The cleaner fleet will result in improvements to air quality and resident’s health, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, financial savings for fleet owners and lower electricity bills for New Jersey citizens.

While adopting the ACT and HDO rules under a Clean Trucks NJ program are important first steps, New Jersey must also adopt additional measures designed specifically to ensure reductions in air pollution from transportation in communities of color and low-income communities (environmental justice communities). Environmental justice communities are exposed to disproportionately high levels of air pollution in New Jersey and across the country.

Therefore, any Clean Trucks NJ program must come in combination with other policies and programs such as creating zero-emission zones where the use of internal combustion engine vehicles is limited; replacing and retrofitting existing diesel equipment; establishing deployment and incentive programs for EV charging infrastructure; and mandating emission-reduction measures that target environmental justice communities, transportation corridors and port regions.

Study outlines potential impacts

The MJB&A study projects that a Clean Trucks NJ program would result in the replacement of more than 270,000 diesel trucks and buses with zero-emissions vehicles (59 percent of the in-use fleet) by 2050. Key state-level benefits between 2024 and 2050 would include:

  • Reducing unhealthy smog and air toxics by cutting NOx emissions by more than 144,000 metric tons and PM2.5 pollution by 245 metric tons
  • Improving public health by avoiding nearly 136,000 respiratory-related illnesses, 250 hospital admissions and emergency room visits and 230 premature deaths
  • Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 19 million metric tons (CO2-equivalent)
  • Saving fleet owners nearly $420 million annually, by 2050, in fuel and maintenance costs
  • Creating more jobs in the United States than are replaced in 2035, with an average wage almost double the average wage for jobs that are replaced and increasing the annual gross domestic product
  • Delivering net societal benefits of $11.6 billion, including public health benefits, avoided social costs of carbon and fleet-owner and utility-customer savings
  • Reducing the annual electricity bill of the average New Jerseyan in 2050 by $14 and the average commercial customer by $60 as excess utility revenues from zero-emission-vehicle truck fleets are returned to all utility customers
  • Attracting $68 million per year in investments in public and truck depot–based EV charging infrastructure

Accelerating the deployment of zero-emission trucks and buses would dramatically lower pollution from these vehicles compared to today’s levels. The report found that in 2050, the Clean Trucks Program would contribute to reducing truck and bus emissions by 91 percent for NOx, by 77 percent for PM2.5 and by 41 percent for GHGs compared to today’s levels.

The MJB&A study also found that, if the state adopted more ambitious policies that resulted in 100 percent ZEV sales across all truck categories by 2040, New Jerseyans could see about 33 percent greater public health benefits compared to just a Clean Trucks NJ program alone.

New Jersey must take the first step to adopt a Clean Trucks NJ program without delay to begin reaping these benefits. Failure to adopt the ACT rule by the end of 2021 will lead to thousands of new diesel vehicles entering the state’s roads over the next five years — causing vehicles to continue to pollute the air for decades to come.

This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Expert Blog.


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