Last month, the California Air Resources Board unanimously voted to adopt the Advanced Clean Fleets Rule, which sets purchase requirements for private and government fleets to increasingly transition to zero-emission trucks, and sets a 100% sales requirement for manufacturers in 2036. Advocates and communities across the board lauded CARB for taking a critically necessary step to clean up our air, particularly in communities associated with freight corridors, ports and warehouses, therefore most impacted by truck pollution.
Heavy-duty trucks are the largest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, and emit nearly 40% of the state’s particulate matter – despite being only about 7% of the vehicles in the state. As such, the ACF rule will result in an estimated 5,000 fewer premature deaths from health-impacting pollution and generate $57 billion in health savings by 2050. Most of the health benefits of the ACF will be realized by residents in communities exposed to high truck traffic.
Implementation of the ACF rule is eminently feasible. Every major semitruck manufacturer is offering or developing an electric version of their trucks, and there are more than 125 zero-emission medium-duty and heavy-duty truck models currently in production or development in the U.S and this is projected to increase 300% in 2023 alone.
This rule was unanimously approved by CARB with clear support from communities and the legislature. Now, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee is considering asking the State Auditor to review the rule before it has even been fully enacted. The audit process is a critically important tool that the legislature has to ensure accountability and measure performance. This particular audit, however, would be premature at best and potentially deeply harmful to clean air efforts in California and nationally. This is political weaponization of the independent State Auditor’s Office to undermine a robust and open public process that resulted in the adoption of a significant health protective rule.
In addition to broad support and clear economic and health benefits for the ACF, there are several reasons why this action is misguided and dangerous:
- CARB did not take the passage of this regulation lightly. The final language is the culmination of three years of workshops, analysis and stakeholder engagement. The end result reflects many iterations of regulatory text to result in a durable, protective rule.
- The rule has yet to be finalized, it has not been reviewed by the Department of Finance and the Office of Administrative Law, a process mandated by the legislature to evaluate such items as the feasibility of a new rule and the cost of implementation. Undertaking an audit now, before this process plays out is premature, violates established procedural rules and would be unprecedented.
- Undermining the regulation with an politically motivated and ill-timed hearing to consider an audit of the ACF opens the door for polluting interests to delay implementation of these lifesaving rules through lawsuits, challenges to California’s unique regulatory authority and other bad faith legal attacks — in turn preventing constituents everywhere from benefiting from breathable air.
The legislature should not be strong-armed into auditing this rule by special interests who seek to upend progress. We urge removal of the ACF audit from the June 26 committee hearing for the good of Californians and the environment.
Daniel Barad is Western States Policy Manager at Union of Concerned Scientists