Trucks have an outsized impact on climate change in Maine. The transportation sector is responsible for 54% of Maine’s carbon pollution, and 27% of those emissions are from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Reducing emissions from these heavier vehicles is a key part of Maine’s Climate Action Plan, which is why the Natural Resources Council of Maine is supporting the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule.
Maine has a history of adopting strong vehicle emissions standards for cars to reduce pollution and improve air quality. Last year, Governor Mills joined 14 other states and the District of Columbia in an initiative to reduce pollution from heavier vehicles as well. Adopting the ACT standards in Maine would propel us toward our climate goals and commitments by transitioning fossil fuel-powered medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). This step alone is projected to reduce Maine’s carbon emissions by 12% by 2050.
How ACT Works
The ACT rule requires manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks and buses in Maine starting in the 2025 model year. The rule starts out with small percentages that increase through 2035. There’s a lot of flexibility: manufacturers can sell more of one kind of vehicle and use their credits to make up for lower sales in other segments. This is great because these trucks are pretty diverse. The rule ranges from class 2 trucks—full-size pickups and small vans—all the way through class 8 semi-tractor-trailers. This graphic gives a good sense of how varied these vehicles are:
ACT is designed to make sure that Maine people, businesses, and fleet managers have the freedom to choose electric or other zero-emission vehicles, instead of being locked into picking only from a list of polluting vehicles.
Public Health Impacts and Equity
Nationwide, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are disproportionately responsible for toxic air pollution, including on-road nitrogen oxide (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. The Maine Climate Council’s Scientific Assessment summarizes the health risks of these pollutants: Nitrogen Oxides are a precursor to ground-level ozone, which “can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. [It can] exacerbate bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma, reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs, and repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.” Additionally, “exposure to high concentrations of PM2.5 can result in serious health impacts, including adverse birth outcomes and premature death.”
The multi-state memorandum of understanding signed by Governor Mills mentioned above also spotlights how heavy-duty vehicle pollution is an example of environmental injustice: These emissions are a “widely acknowledged, but unaddressed, environmental justice problem that directly and disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities located near freight corridors, ports, and distribution centers.” For example, a recent study found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color experience an average of 28% more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution than higher-income and majority-white neighborhoods.
Maine residents already experience higher rates of asthma and respiratory illness than the national average due to air pollution. Many studies have shown that low-income communities suffer more acutely from air pollution because they tend to be closer to major pollution sources like highways and industrial sites. Greater exposure to pollution in disadvantaged communities along racial and economic lines compound health problems that residents already have less ability to resolve. The proposed ACT regulation would address these health equity concerns by drastically reducing the amount of damaging particulate matter released by the combustion engines of gas-powered medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Cost Savings and Economic Benefits
While many ZEV trucks, vans, and buses currently have higher initial purchase costs, there are several models that are already competitive on a total cost of ownership (TCO) basis due to fuel cost savings and an anticipated 50% lower maintenance cost than a comparable diesel or gasoline vehicle. These savings are already at work in Maine. Mount Desert Island High School just started operating Maine’s first electric school bus, and they report estimated savings of “$5,000 a year in fuel, $2000 a year on standard maintenance, no oil changes, no filter changes.”
Further, the costs of batteries—the largest cost component in electric vehicle manufacturing—have dropped sharply in recent years and are expected to continue to fall. While no independent analysis exists for Maine, economic analysis of the adoption of the ACT rule in other states, including Oregon, California, New York, and New Jersey found significant positive economic impacts including fleet-owner savings, lower electricity bills, health and environmental benefits, and investment in EV infrastructure.
Expanding Opportunity for Maine People and Businesses
Maine has taken bipartisan action in response to the climate crisis, enacting ambitious climate goals, and putting forward “Maine Won’t Wait”—our state’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change in the form of extreme precipitation, dangerous heat index days, and even smoke from western wildfires. Reducing emissions quickly is the only way we can avoid even worse impacts of climate change for Maine communities and Maine people.
Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are critical parts of our economy, keeping Maine’s workers working, businesses humming, freight moving, and Maine people getting to school and to work. Maine’s participation in ACT will give us the opportunity to choose cleaner vehicles, while providing enormous benefits to the climate, our health, and the economy.
—by Jack Shapiro, NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Director