Comments In Favor Of NJDEP Omnibus Diesel Pollution Rule

Media Contacts

Re: Proposed Model Year 2027 or Later Heavy-Duty New Engine and Vehicle Standards and Requirements, and Diesel Vehicle Inspection Tests and Procedures Docket No. 07-22-10

We submit these comments on behalf of the Jersey Renews coalition, representing more than 70 community, labor, environmental and faith organizations, including commenting organizations Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey Work Environment Council and Tri-State Transportation Campaign, representing more than 100,000 citizen members and activists across the state. We support the Low NOx Omnibus rule and urge its adoption as quickly as possible per delivered public testimony, and we will also outline complementary policies and strengthening of the proposed regulation.

Dirty diesel trucks are a public health scourge on our roads and in our neighborhoods and deliver toxic air pollution directly to the lungs of residents, primarily in overburdened communities. For close to 20 years, the standards for toxic pollution from large medium and heavy duty trucks have stood still. It’s time to work to reduce diesel pollution by more than 90% using the best available technology.

We need to electrify our truck fleet through the Advanced Clean Truck rule, but during the transition to electrification we need to reduce toxic particulate matter pollution from new diesel vehicles as much as possible. We urge NJDEP to adopt this rule as quickly as possible, especially because this rule is adopting by reference California’s truck pollution rule. There is a clear public health benefit to cleaning up the truck pollution that harms the air quality of our urban neighborhoods. NJDEP should move forward with this rule and work to adopt by reference the Advanced Clean Cars II rule, which will accelerate the transition to light duty electric vehicles. New Jersey residents deserve to breathe cleaner air, and this rule will make that day closer.

The proposed rule will reduce toxic air pollution to ensure that medium and heavy duty trucks will be subject to the most stringent emission standards that are technically feasible for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). The proposal will ensure that all heavy-duty vehicles are subject to the same emission inspection procedures and standards, amend the definition of gross vehicle weight rating, and constitutes a revision to New Jersey’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the attainment and maintenance of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground level ozone.

In addition to adopting the Advanced Clean Truck rule last December, New Jersey adopts requirements analogous to those adopted by California under the NOx Omnibus Rule. This rule requires an additional 75 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the engines in new gasoline and diesel trucks sold between model year 2025 and 2026, and a 90 percent reduction for trucks sold beginning in the 2027 model year. The proposed rule is modeled after California’s emission standards for new Model Year 2027 and later gasoline and diesel engines and vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 8,500 pounds, commonly known as medium and heavy duty trucks.

It should be self-evident, but diesel exhaust is a major component of particulate matter air pollution, which has been linked to asthma, lung diseases and heart disease. It also has been studied as a cause of increased risk of death from heart attacks and stroke, premature birth and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Additionally, its toxic gases and vapors are linked to cancer and can affect cognition and learning.

It is critical to understand the impacts of diesel pollution upon our communities, the impacts of diesel truck traffic pollutants on community health and local air quality. We will cite two separate examples, one hyper local in the port city of Elizabeth and the other more global research on the number of air pollutants that infiltrate the passenger car cabin on the New Jersey Turnpike. Both examples are deeply indebted to the research of Dr. Robert Laumbach from Rutgers EOHSI.

For decades, heavy diesel trucks taking cargo from container ships at the Port Newark–Elizabeth Marine Terminal used a residential street in Elizabeth to avoid the tolls between Exits 13 and 13A on the New Jersey Turnpike. The trucks also routinely idled on the street awaiting their next load. Their route along the narrow, two-lane First Street took them past many homes, two schools, a childcare center and an athletic field, prompting concern that the community’s rising rates of asthma were connected to diesel exhaust.

In 2014, Dr. Robert Laumbach, director of community outreach for Rutgers Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED) and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI), enlisted residents as “citizen-researchers” to work with his team and count trucks and measure particulate matter air pollutants between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on a typical weekday morning when children walked to school. Their goal was to create a profile of the air pollution levels on First Street.

After Laumbach and community leaders presented the collected data to local officials, the City of Elizabeth’s council passed an ordinance in 2017 to restrict traffic on First Street to vehicles under four tons, essentially banning tractor-trailers. Four years after the first truck count, Laumbach and his researchers partnered again with residents for a post-ordinance assessment on truck count and diesel emissions. They found an 86 percent reduction in truck traffic and an 80 percent reduction in black carbon and ultrafine particle counts.

That result obviously can’t be replicated across the state, as we can’t ban truck traffic from all local, state and interstate roads. But earlier research conducted by Dr. Laumbach illustrated that the very simple act of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike created real and immediate public health impacts with the air quality reductions in the cabin. Dr. Laumbach conducted research from 2007 to 2014 where study participants drove in a car with closed windows and open vents during morning rush hours on 190 days. Real-time measurements of air pollutants were captured and were more elevated than you would find on normal local roads. Median in-cabin concentrations were 11 μg/m3 PM2.5, 40,000 particles/cm3, 0.3 ppm CO, 4 μg/m3 BC, and 20.6 ppb NO2. In-cabin concentrations on the NJ Turnpike were higher than in-cabin concentrations on local roads by a factor of 1.4 for PM2.5, 3.5 for PNC, 1.0 for CO, and 4 for BC. Median concentrations of NO2 for full rides were 2.4 times higher than ambient concentrations. What’s different on the Turnpike? Certainly more cars, but clearly many more trucks.

Note, these examples are not isolated: the New Jersey medium and heavy duty fleet includes nearly 423,000 vehicles that annually travel more than 6.2 billion miles and consume 653 million gallons of petroleum-based fuels. In New Jersey, medium and heavy-duty vehicles are currently responsible for an estimated 7.6 million metric tons (MMT) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually—approximately 20 percent of all GHGs from the on-road vehicle fleet.

In New Jersey, medium and heavy duty vehicles are also responsible for 44 percent of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 39 percent of the particulate matter (PM 2.5) emitted by on-road vehicles, both of which contribute to poor air quality and resulting negative health impacts in many urban areas, including low-income and disadvantaged communities that are often disproportionately affected by emissions from freight movement due to the proximity of transportation infrastructure to the communities.

This includes all on-road vehicles registered in New Jersey with greater than 8,501 pounds gross vehicle weight, encompassing vehicle weight classes from Class 2b though Class 8. This is a diverse set of mostly commercial vehicles that includes heavy-duty pickups; school and shuttle buses; sanitation, construction, and other types of work trucks; and freight trucks ranging from local delivery vans to tractor-trailers that weigh up to 80,000 pounds when loaded.

Greater emissions from diesel trucks and buses emit higher levels of air pollution, which can lead to even greater health concerns in populations more directly exposed to diesel emissions. Communities located adjacent to ports and related goods-movement infrastructure (i.e. warehouses, logistics centers, rail yards, etc.) experience higher levels of truck traffic, both from surrounding thruways and on local streets, which exacerbates health concerns. Since these emissions are local in their effects, policies to reduce transportation emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles can improve the health and well-being of communities in urban areas or around transportation corridors, which are often home to people of color, low-income residents, or those who are otherwise vulnerable or disadvantaged.

To ensure reductions in those communities, program requirements on truck manufacturers, such as the Advanced Clean Truck and Heavy-Duty Omnibus Rules, would need to be accompanied by additional policies designed specifically with these communities in mind. The cumulative NOx reductions from the NOx Omnibus Rule are estimated at 94,000 Metric Tons over the next 30 years, and the monetized value of cumulative net public health benefits is close to $2.7 billion, according to an analysis by M.J. Bradley & Associates.

Clearly, the impacts of diesel trucks are not disparate on our communities. There is a clear and unequal treatment of public health in overburdened communities, especially in the communities surrounding the Port of Newark. In the Ironbound section of Newark, Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles (MHDV) account for 24% of the NOx, 14% of PM2.5 and 19% of Black Carbon (BC) – more than all light duty vehicles combined. Non-road mobile sources (marine, cargo handling equipment and rail) account for 77% of NOx exposure and 85% of PM2.5 and BC. The region is currently in non-attainment for ozone of which NOx is a precursor. Non-attainment for PM2.5 may also occur if the federal standard is lowered as predicted, per MJ Bradley and Associate’s 2020 analysis of the Port of Newark.

Jersey Renews and our partners strongly support the adoption of the Omnibus Low NOx rule while acknowledging that the rule needs to be adopted in concert with our state and NJDEP regulatory protections to transition to electrification of our MHD vehicle sector. Most critically, the ramp up in requirements to reduce NOx emissions reductions by up to 90% by 2027 is massively important component of the rule proposal, as well as the extension of emission control warranties to ensure more effective emission controls over a longer time period.

That being said, these rules need to be adopted within a framework of moving forward on the Advanced Clean Truck rule, as well as the proposed revised straw proposal from the NJBPU on medium and heavy duty vehicle electrification charging infrastructure and its proposed investment in charging infrastructure in overburdened urban communities. Clean diesel engines remain a misnomer and new vehicles that hit the road will be polluting for decades. There is no mechanism to remove the oldest and dirtiest diesel trucks from our roads or scrapping requirement for the oldest diesel trucks. There are no restrictions on the oldest and dirtiest diesel trucks from operating at the Port of Newark and Port of Elizabeth, in addition to the South Jersey Port, or on their primary logistics corridors, which directly contrasts with California’s port truck policies.

Opposition from the trucking industry also fundamentally is focused on preventing broader electrification of trucks fleets because of the bright lines that the Advanced Clean Truck rule draws. We are concerned with the policies that allow emissions averages/credits within truck classes – we should be working to replace the dirtiest diesel vehicles, not providing offsets to extend their road lift – and pollution emissions. This is an especially damaging component of the proposed rule because the dirtiest diesel vehicles end up being port drayage trucks which stay within close proximity of the Ports and its surrounding neighborhoods, exacerbating the diesel death zones that impact Newark’s Ironbound community, as documented by the truck counting work of the Coalition of Healthy Ports and replicated through the research of Dr. Robert Laumbach and community organizations in Elizabeth close to a decade ago.

In conclusion, the NJPACT NJDEP rule proposals, especially the adoption of the California rules by reference, provide two options – clean up diesel engines and move towards electrification. The Jersey Renews coalition and commenting organizations support this rule proposal, but also acknowledge increasingly that we are facing a binary choice between diesel and electric medium and heavy duty vehicles. This is a path that is being taken by California, most notably in the light duty sector with the adoption of Advanced Clean Cars II to transition to a 100% electric light duty light duty car and truck sales by 2035. In the medium and heavy duty vehicle sector, there is a similar transition both with the wide-spread adoption of the Advanced Clean Truck rule but also the coming adoption of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets rule, with its focus on port drayage trucks. The requirement of electric trucks for California’s ports is ultimately where New Jersey policy needs to lead, in addition to reducing the fleet size requirements, adopting an electric truck sale mandate at the conclusion of the Advanced Clean Truck implementation in the mid 2030s and stronger requirements for the largest truck classes.

The next two decades should be both the dawn of electric truck adoption but also their complete transition for truck fleets. Diesel combustion from the medium and heavy duty fleet no longer needs to be a permanent curse for this vehicle fleet. The proposed rule should be adopted and strengthened as outlined, but its adoption should be part of the broader transition by New Jersey regulators to move forward for an electric truck future within these next two decades.

 

Sincerely,

Doug O’Malley, Director

Environment New Jersey

Debra Coyle, Executive Director
NJ Work Environment Council

 

Drew Tompkins, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Jersey Renews Coalition

 

Jaqi Cohen, Director of Climate & Equity Policy

Tri-State Transportation Campaign

 

 

 

 

 

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