By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 34 Republican senators said Thursday they would seek to overturn United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that aim to slash smog and soot emissions from heavy trucks.
The senators said the Biden administration’s rule finalized in December was excessively challenging to implement, would make trucking costs prohibitive for small business owners and increase supply chain costs.
Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress can reverse the recently finalized rules. Democrats hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, while Republicans narrowly control the House.
The new standards, the first update to clean air standards for heavy trucks in more than two decades, go into effect March 27 and are 80 percent stricter than current standards.
By 2045, the rule will result in up to 2,900 fewer premature deaths annually, 1.1 million fewer missed school days for children, and $29 billion in annual net benefits by 2045, according to EPA estimates.
Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, who is leading the effort to repeal the rule, said the EPA’s “aggressive” rule would “incentivize operators to keep using older, higher-emitting trucks for longer.” .
The new EPA rules target truck and heavy-duty engine makers by tightening annual emissions limits and changing key provisions of existing rules to ensure emissions reductions in long-term road use. The standards strengthen testing procedures, regulatory requirements on service life and emissions guarantees.
“It’s really important, especially to protect the health of the 72 million people who live near America’s freight shipping lanes,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told Reuters in December. The rule would reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 48 percent by 2045, he added.
Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said if small-business truckers couldn’t afford the new compliant trucks, they’d either stick with older, less efficient trucks or exit the industry altogether.
Some environmental groups said they supported the rules, while others said the EPA hadn’t gone far enough to protect public health from the emissions.
Separately, the EPA plans to propose “Stage 3” greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for heavy-duty vehicles and new emissions standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles next month. Both will go into effect in the 2027 model year.
In December 2021, the EPA finalized new passenger vehicle emissions requirements through 2026 that reversed President Donald Trump’s rollback of car pollution cuts.
Transportation is the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions at 29%, and heavy-duty vehicles are the second largest contributor at 23%.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jamie Freed)