Environmental groups say state delayed clean air rule

Colorado pollution regulators now say they won’t complete long-awaited clean truck rules until 2023, prompting cries of betrayal from environmental groups who say it’s essential to act now to reduce greenhouse gas and ozone emissions that harm affected communities.

Key groups included by the law in developing the energy transition rules said they had been assured that the massive truck sector cleanup rules would be enforced this year, as part of Colorado laws committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.

Instead, state agency staff prepared materials for Thursday’s monthly Air Quality Control Board meeting announcing a 2023 target for truck rules, and briefed environmental justice groups delays in bitter phone consultations this month. The most restrictive form of rules for clean trucks already been through California requiring a certain percentage of new trucks sold to be zero-emissions, either through electric motors or motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

“Aggressive action to clean the air has been delayed too long, and any delay in passing rules means more harmful pollution, especially for black and brown families,” said a statement from a coalition in talks. with the state that includes Colorado GreenLatinos, the NAACP, Mi Familia Vota and more.

There are half a million medium to heavy-duty trucks on Colorado’s roads, including package delivery trucks, waste haulers, tractor-trailers and utility fleets. Many are diesel powered and have an outsized impact on pollution as they can each travel hundreds of miles a day and have engines running 8-10 hours at a time.

Their emissions are also concentrated in warehouses and industrial neighborhoods where low-income residents can afford housing, and which are surrounded by busy freeways and other delivery routes. North Denver and Commerce City, for example, also face daily pollution Suncor Oil Refinery and Cherokee Power Plant, two of the state’s largest industrial emitters.

“Our communities are always told to wait for environmental justice, to wait for action that will improve the health of our families and our children, to wait because the burden on others would be too great,” said the Environmental Justice Coalition.

The Colorado Bureau of Energy said in a statement that completing the so-called advanced rules for clean trucks in 2022 was just a placeholder on the schedule of the United States Quality Control Commission. air, and that the state’s commitment to a clean fuel transition for trucks was unchanged.

“The greatest impact we can have in the short term on bringing clean trucks and buses into circulation is to quickly adopt incentive plans for the clean truck and bus fleet, to recharge the infrastructure to support the transition and move on to the governor’s decision. proposals to the legislature for large-scale investments to transition to electric school buses,” the office of energy said in response to questions about the end of clean truck mandates in 2023.

The Office of Energy and the Department of Health told environmental stakeholders on a call this week that they wanted more time to include environmental justice activists and allow supply chain issues of the trucking industry to ease so companies have more time to help with the rules and buy clean trucks.

These justice groups respond that they’re all committed — most were there on the call — and what their constituents have already said they want is for Colorado to pass clean truck rules immediately. California style, as officials had promised to do.

Truckers say the equipment is not ready

Trucking trade groups say they want to help work on emissions, but they support the state’s argument that supply delays and a lack of cleaner models mitigate the possibility of any real change from to clean truck rules anytime soon.

“I have people who basically paid full price for a Tesla tractor three years ago and didn’t get it, and they get an email saying it’s going to be 2023,” said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. Colorado carriers have new, cleaner-burning truck models on their lots that can’t be put on the road yet because, ironically, computer chips for emissions detection are hard to come by, he said. .

Medium and heavy trucks make up just 10% of vehicles on the road, but account for nearly 25% of vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, according to state statistics. In addition to climate change gases, local vehicular traffic contributes nitrogen oxide and particulates that contribute to ozone stew, and the northern Front Range is set to be reclassified by the EPA as a “serious” violator of ozone limits.

The entire environmental coalition seeking transport limits was offended that the state wanted more input from justice groups, when all of these groups were “telling you we want this done now, we’ve been talking about it for over a year,” Aaron Kressig said. , transportation electrification lead for Western Resource Advocates.

“The administration wants to act as quickly as possible with a thoughtful approach to clean trucking, and with a pandemic-induced challenge in the global supply chain impacting people’s daily lives, that’s not the time to make these sorts of false assertions. “, indicates the press release of the office of energy.

“The administration’s timeline is as aggressive as possible to get it right, and what’s highlighted is that we need to get the investment plans in place for transportation electrification companies and adopt quickly the Governor’s Clean Air Package, which includes clean trucking. component in order to put in place the most robust regulations possible,” said Conor Cahill, spokesman for Governor Jared Polis.

If air quality control commissioners don’t urge state staff to speed up clean truck rules, an environmental coalition will seek to impose faster regulations through a petition process , said Ean Tafoya, director of Colorado GreenLatinos. A similar coalition pushed and won a similar acceleration at the Water Quality Review Board last year to consider increased protections for the South Platte River and Clear Creek.

California’s clean truck rules that Colorado and other states use as models primarily require truck equipment manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of cleaner vehicles each year. These will initially be electric vehicles, but manufacturers are also working on hydrogen fuel cell models capable of carrying larger loads over longer distances. Colorado in 2019 passed a similar mandate for passenger vehicle makers to sell more zero-emission vehicles each year, which officials say helped boost electric vehicle sales compared to other states.

To prepare for the mandates, Colorado will also need to accelerate the construction of electric charging infrastructure for passenger cars and the trucking industry. School buses are one of the first categories of trucks already producing market-ready electric models, and Polis’ 2022-2023 budget proposal includes significant spending to help local districts acquire them.

Environmental groups said they see the Polis administration again acting slowly on greenhouse gases instead of following public signals to act quickly. They say the same thing happened last summer, when the Air Pollution Control Division drafted rules to push large employers to reduce travel-related emissions. Business and trade groups pushed back strongly and the travel proposal was dropped.

“Everything indicates that something is going to be done in the transport sector to make progress towards our targets on the greenhouse gas roadmap, and then there is an inexplicable delay,” Kressig said.

The supply of clean-energy trucking substitutes is so limited, Fulton said of motor carriers, that the state might want to focus more on retiring older, dirtier diesels. Helping a small trucking company replace a pre-2000 diesel model, even with a used but newer truck, can significantly reduce emissions for the same trips, he said.

“And those are going to benefit economically depressed areas, because a lot of these small businesses are owner-operators who are actually based in those areas,” Fulton said.

Polis and his team talked about a program to buy back the dirtiest trucks on the road, but the number of vehicles they mentioned retired is around 500.

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