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Senators Call for Stronger EPA Regulation for Heavy Duty Vehicles

U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to finalize the strongest possible Phase 3 heavy-duty vehicle emissions rule by next year.

“Now, we are here today with a specific but urgent message for the EPA as they finalize their Phase 3 rules,” Padilla said during a press conference on Wednesday organized by nonprofit CALSTART in Washington, D.C.

He said he has memories of growing up in Los Angeles and riding school buses to and from school on diesel school buses, which he stated are bad for student’s health and learning abilities.

“And to think that today we have technologies like electric school buses, that eliminate that diesel exhaust [and] are better for kids health, better for the air, better for their learning ability – we’re in a new day.”

He recalled days when he was sent him from school due to the poor air quality. Padilla said these are concrete reminders to him of the impact vehicle emissions pose to the environment and public health. He noted that only 10 percent of vehicles currently on the road are heavy-duty vehicles, but they produce over a quarter of all transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions and over half of all particulate matter.

“As EPA is working to finalize its Phase 3 rule, let’s face it, we cannot meet our comprehensive climate goals without a strong EPA rule, regulating heavy duty vehicle emissions and driving the commercial market forward,” he said.

Padilla added that a bicameral coalition of 81 lawmakers is urging the EPA to finalize the “strongest possible greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy duty vehicles.”

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles, Phase 3 rule would apply to heavy duty school buses and other vocational vehicles and calls for stronger CO2 standards for Model Year 2027 HD vehicles that surpass the current standards that apply under the HD Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas program. The agency is also proposing an additional set of CO2 standards for HD vehicles that would begin with model-year 2028 engines, with progressively lower standards each model year through 2032.

Padilla noted that earlier this year, manufacturers and lawmakers reached an agreement in California to achieve 100-percent, zero-emission heavy duty vehicle sales by 2036.

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Whitehouse added Rhode Island adheres to California emissions standards. The state is one of 13 nationwide that adopted California Air Resource Board regulations for air emissions.

“I echo Alex’s call to the EPA administrator to do this strong and do this quick. We don’t want it to lurk over into Congressional Review Act territory,” he said.

He added the U.S. needs to get ahead of the EU carbon tariff — launched Oct. 1 reportedly as the world’s first CO2 tariff on imported steel, cement and other goods — by lowering the carbon intensity of heavy-duty engines.

Nate Baguio, the senior vice president of commercial development for school bus manufacturer Lion Electric, also spoke at the event. He shared that “American manufacturing is primed and ready” to support EPA’s Phase 3 rule, citing the Lion plant that opened in Joliet, Illinois in July.

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