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U.S. EPA Solicits Input on Federal Cleaner Truck Initiative

On Monday, January 6th, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was in Virginia promoting the U.S. EPA’s Cleaner Truck Initiative. The public event coincided with release of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. The Cleaner Truck Initiative is expected to result in tightening of emission standards, primarily oxides of nitrogen (NOx) levels, and revamping of regulations for heavy-duty on-road vehicles. The notice provides insight into EPA’s current thinking on the types of technological changes required to achieve lower NOx levels and other emissions and while acknowledging the lower emissions of natural gas engines, devotes most of the discussion to addressing changes required for diesel and, to a lesser extent, gasoline engines used in heavy-duty vehicles.

Since this is an advanced notice, it does not include regulatory text or provide guidance as to how much of a reduction in NOx emissions will be required. EPA does appear to indicate that the future standards likely would not take effect until 2027. California authorities have indicated that they would like to impose lower NOx levels by 2024, setting up a potential conflict with EPA’s goal of implementing one national standard.

The notice includes extensive discussion of in-use emissions from diesel vehicles and acknowledges that existing test protocols and certification requirements fall short of limiting real-world emissions. One thing that seems almost certain is that EPA will propose changes to the testing protocols for certifying new engines and verifying in-use emission performance. EPA also appears likely to adopt other measures such as revamping the use-fuel life estimates for engines and extending warranty requirements in an effort to ensure that engines continue to produce lower emissions over their entire life.

EPA is requesting input on a significant number of issues including regulatory incentives to encourage earlier introduction of cleaner engines. Since natural gas engines already meet extremely low NOx levels the proposed incentives could prove beneficial to natural gas engine manufacturers. EPA’s notice acknowledges that there could be problems with creating credits for engines certified under existing test procedures if the test procedures are changed. The notice also addresses EPA’s concern that the future emission standards do not conflict with already adopted fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards. Another issue addressed in the notice is the potential for technology to aid in streamlining the certification process including in-use verification of emissions.

NGVAmerica plans to submit comments on the advanced notice. It is asking members to review the notice and provide feedback to us. Please feel free to share input with Jeff Clarke of NGVAmerica at jclarke@ngvamerica.org. Comments are due within thirty days of publication in the Federal Register.

Link to notice: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-01/documents/cleaner-trucks-initiative-anpr-2020-01-06.pdf