Tri-State Attorneys General Seek Federal Action to Curb Air Pollution from Trucks

Connecticut by the Numbers

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew Bruck are pressing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten controls on air pollution emitted by heavy-duty trucks.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, a former Connecticut Commissioner of Environmental Protection and federal EPA Administrator, the attorneys general urged the EPA to act quickly to propose stronger standards for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from new on-road heavy-duty trucks and engines for model year 2027 and beyond.  

“Heavy-duty trucks are a major driver of air pollution and climate change. We are urging the EPA to take swift, strong measures to curb truck pollution and protect public health. Connecticut sits at the end of the tailpipe of our nation’s exhaust fumes, and we cannot protect ourselves from upwind smog without this federal action,” said Attorney General Tong.

Heavy-duty trucks are the nation’s largest mobile-source contributor of NOx, a potent precursor to ground-level ozone, or “smog,” emitting roughly 20-times more NOx than a gasoline-fueled car, the Attorneys General point out. Elevated levels of smog can disproportionately affect the health of the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, and causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COVID-19, and premature death. People who live, work, or go to school near high-traffic roadways – which tend to be in low-income communities and communities of color – experience higher rates of these health impacts.
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The letter submitted this week emphasizes that a “significant and rapid” cut in NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks is urgently needed to protect the public health and well-being of all residents, but especially the most vulnerable communities, noting that there is a particular health threat in ;ow-income communities and communities of color.

“People who live, work, or go to school near high-traffic roadways—who tend to be low-income and/or people of color—experience higher rates of these adverse health effects,” the Attorneys General said in the letter to federal officials.  They indicated that “as climate change engenders warmer temperatures, smog formation will only worsen. Smog disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members our society, including children and the elderly, and causes increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COVID-19, and premature death.”

Even though New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have implemented some of the most stringent control programs for NOx in the nation, officials point out, the New York City metropolitan area failed to meet national air quality standards for smog by the July 2021 deadline. As a result, the EPA will soon reclassify the region from “serious” nonattainment with smog standards to “severe” nonattainment. 

The states’ on-going smog problem is, in a substantial way, driven by the pollution emissions of on-road heavy-duty trucks, as these vehicles emit 20 percent of the total NOx pollution in the tri-state region.  In their letter, the Attorneys General note that a sizeable proportion of this NOx is out of their control due to out-of-state trucks operating in their states or truck pollution that blows in from upwind states. 

Without strong action from the EPA to curb NOx emissions from out-of-state heavy-duty vehicles that New York and the other states lack the authority to regulate, the Attorneys General argue that the states will continue to struggle to meet smog standards and protect the health of their residents. 

“A significant and rapid reduction in NOx emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles is urgently needed to protect the public health and well-being of all of our residents, but especially our environmental justice communities,” the letter concludes.

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