Let states lead the way to cleaner trucks

Our Destination: Zero Carbon Campaign Director testified in front of the EPA in support of state authority to tackle truck pollution.

Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a public hearing today about California’s heavy-duty trucks program. I spoke on behalf of Environment America, urging EPA to grant California’s waiver request in full to move ahead with these rules for cleaner trucks. 

In order for California to set stronger limits on pollution from cars and trucks than the federal government, EPA must grant California a waiver under the Clean Air Act. California has received such waivers for more than 50 years, allowing them to protect residents’ health from pollution. Other states can then choose whether to follow the federal standards or the stronger California programs. Already, five states – Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts – have opted into the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) program to accelerate the transition to zero-emission trucks. 

There’s a good reason why, for decades, Environment America spent years running and winning campaigns for stronger auto emissions standards in the states and across the country. Letting states lead the way to tackle air pollution and climate change is a good idea, and will prepare our whole country to reach Destination: Zero Carbon

Environment America’s Destination: Zero Carbon Campaign Director Morgan Folger (top right) testifies in front of EPA officials in support of states leading on clean trucks.

Read the rest of my testimony to the EPA:

“Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 58,000 lives, and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Trucks and buses are everywhere in our communities, delivering packages, bringing kids to school, picking up trash, or just passing through on a major highway. The toxic air pollution from those vehicles is threatening our health and contributing to the climate crisis. 

“Transportation is the largest source of human-caused nitrogen oxide emissions. Though heavy-duty vehicles make up only 10 percent of all vehicles on roads in the U.S., they contribute 45 percent of the transportation sector’s nitrogen oxide pollution. Limiting smog pollution from trucks will save lives. More needs to be done to curb health-threatening air pollution, especially from trucks. 

“California and many states across the country are dealing with poor air quality and working to do everything possible to clean up pollution. According to a report by Environment California Research & Policy Center, over 28 million Californians —about 70% of the state’s population— experienced over 100 days of unhealthy air quality in 2020. 98% of the state’s population experienced at least 30 bad air days.

“In addition to these health threats, Transportation is the #1 source of global warming pollution in the United States. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to zero out emissions from transportation.

“States can and should continue to lead the way to cleaner technology including zero-emission trucks, which will help them address local air pollution problems and meet climate goals.

“States have always been the incubators for climate policy, leading the way to better address the climate crisis. For more than 50 years, U.S. states have had the explicit right granted under the Clean Air Act to protect their residents’ health by choosing clean truck standards that are safer than the federal standards. 

“Currently, 6 states—representing more than 20% of the medium- and heavy-duty truck market—have committed to adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks sales mandates, and more are currently considering the rule. California, Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have adopted the ACT rule, and other states like Connecticut, Maine, and North Carolina are working on adoption.

“Leadership states are preparing for all electric trucks and we shouldn’t hold them back from  making progress for cleaner air. Letting states move forward with more zero-emission technology will be valuable for our nation’s transition away from fossil fuels. These state policies can be the blueprint for future national policies when our nation is ready for ambitious action. 

“Vehicle manufacturers have the technology to meet these strong standards. I’ve been to electric vehicle showcases and seen these electric trucks firsthand. I saw an electric semi-truck at an event held by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this month. There are electric refuse trucks, electric school and transit buses and shuttle buses, electric terminal trucks for distribution centers, electric postal trucks, and so many more. As the states move ahead with these rules, it will help grow investments in electric trucks and prepare the market for the transition to 100% zero emission trucks that we need in order to protect our planet.

“Strong state laws will be one of the most important tools for healthy air and a stable climate, not just for California, but for any state that chooses to follow their clean trucks programs through Section 177 of the Clean Air Act. I urge the EPA to grant California’s full waiver for clean trucks.”


Morgan Hayward

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America