Home Climate justice Op-Ed: Why NJ Should Adopt The Clean Truck Rule

Op-Ed: Why NJ Should Adopt The Clean Truck Rule

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Renée Pollard and Bill Beren

Communities in New Jersey suffer from respiratory illnesses and other health effects due to dangerously high levels of air pollution. Most of our counties have insufficient levels of ozone and particulate matter, both of which are emitted in large amounts from diesel trucks. This pollution increases the incidence of asthma, heart disease, heart attacks, cancers, chronic lung disease and premature death, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. One in four children in Newark has asthma, a rate three times the national average. Trenton has four times as many asthma-related emergency room visits as the state average.

There is a critical need to improve air quality and meet our climate goals in New Jersey. Not only does diesel pollution have a direct impact on the health of our communities, it also contributes to climate-related impacts. Extreme heat can lead to heat-related illnesses or worsen existing health problems. Storms and rising sea levels cause flooding, affecting some of our most vulnerable communities.

That’s why we’re part of a diverse coalition of environmental, business, public health and environmental justice advocates urging Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to swiftly pass the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which would deliver zero-emission trucks in New Jersey, help reduce dirty diesel emissions, improve air quality and build healthier and safer communities for all. This rule would work by requiring manufacturers to sell and deliver pollution-free electric trucks to New Jersey from 2025 with 100% new zero-emission truck sales by 2045.

Studies have shown the health benefits our communities will see once the ACT rule is adopted. There will be less air pollution and less noise pollution, especially in places like Newark where we see thousands of trucks traveling every day. We need to implement the ACT rule quickly to see these benefits as soon as possible.

No “sacrifice zones” for the freight industry

Some opponents have opposed New Jersey’s adoption of the ACT rule. This comment revolves around the misconception that the rule prevents the trucking industry from taking immediate action to implement emission control technology. These arguments fail to mention that the rule would bring significant climate and public health benefits, and obscure statistics to minimize the real impacts felt by our communities. Days of high ozone mean our kids can’t play outside and our grandparents have to stay indoors due to potential health risks. It’s not acceptable. New Jersey has an opportunity – and a responsibility – to pursue a different path, where none of our communities are a sacrificed area for the freight industry.

In every state that is considering the ACT rule, we have seen fossil fuel interests selling a false narrative about the feasibility of transitioning to electric trucks. But then why do the large companies that own truck fleets in New Jersey support the ACT rule and its timeline? Companies like Microsoft, eBay, Ben & Jerry’s, Ikea, Nestle, Unilever and Lyft have supported the ACT rule in several states and called on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to adopt it. Electric trucks are coming, and they’re coming a lot faster than the diesel companies’ spurious claims would have you believe.

The good news about electric vehicles is that as we deploy more renewable sources, these vehicles become even cleaner. The Murphy administration has pledged in New Jersey to use 100% clean energy by 2050, our largest utility is aiming for 100% net zero electricity by 2030, and President Joe Biden has proposed a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. This means that most of our electric charging stations will be powered only by renewable energy sources within a few years, not decades.

Putting more polluting trucks on our roads is not a solution and will delay the transition to electric trucks by several decades. The transition to electric trucks now will help reduce pollution immediately, and trucks will continue to get cleaner as we increase our use of renewables. We need clean trucks on our roads today so our communities can breathe cleaner air and our state can tackle our most polluting sector.