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Tell the EPA to clean up heavy-duty trucks

Delivery to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

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What’s At Stake

Truck pollution is a public health crisis, but it doesn’t have to be. Most heavy-duty trucks on the road burn diesel, which takes a heavy toll on the health of the communities trucks drive through as they belch dangerous levels of nitrogen oxides, benzene, and particulate matter. Breathing such heavily polluted air dramatically raises asthma rates and the risk of lung problems, leading some doctors to call neighborhoods with heavy freight activity “diesel death zones.” Tell the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about truck pollution.

With rapid advancements in electric truck technologies, several states requiring manufacturers to increase their production of zero-emitting trucks, and competent leadership restored to the EPA, we were hopeful that the EPA would finally revise its 20-year-old truck standards, and adopt strong, new national standards that would put us firmly on course to electrify the country’s trucks and clean up our air. Unfortunately, it released a proposal that doesn’t require any truck electrification and, indeed, would allow the production of electric trucks to excuse diesel trucks from employing state-of-the-art pollution controls.

The EPA has more power than any other agency to address this problem, and the federal government needs to prove it cares about clean air and the climate crisis after the disastrous Postal Service fleet replacement plan. Tell the EPA to come back with stronger protections.

Racist transportation and housing policies enacted by local, state, and federal governments pushed communities of color into close proximity with ports and freight routes, and vice versa. That harm is ongoing, yet governments are still signing off on new mega-warehouses that generate additional truck trips and pollution — and these warehouses are also disproportionately located in communities of color. Eliminating pollution by electrifying trucks is a key solution to address this harm, yet the EPA still lacks the will to craft regulations that will meaningfully address the problem.

Trucks poison our air, but they’re also threatening the stability of our climate. Transportation recently eclipsed electricity generation as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and medium and heavy-duty trucks account for nearly a quarter of those emissions — a share that’s growing rapidly. The UN’s latest climate report made clear that we need to start decreasing global emissions by 2025 and halve them by 2030 — and aggressively electrifying trucks would be a strong step in that direction.

The EPA has an obligation, to our communities and to our climate, to ensure that trucks are not poisoning our lungs and our futures. Call on the EPA to grow its ambition and tackle this problem with the conviction it requires.

Illustration of freight trucks spewing exhaust and carrying asthma inhalers.
Hannah Rothstein for Earthjustice

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.