Md. Enters Into Pact to Promote Zero-Emissions Trucks

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Maryland this week has entered into an agreement with 14 other states and the District of Columbia to reduce emissions from trucks, buses, and other large vehicles to improve air quality and combat the effects of climate change.

The goal is to transition to 100% zero-emission trucks and buses by 2050.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with his counterparts, pledging to collaborate to increase the number of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The MOU says the states will “work collaboratively to advance and accelerate the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment, the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Energy Administration will work closely with motor carriers, environmental and public health experts, communities that are near heavy-duty freight corridors, and other stakeholders to develop a balanced and market-driven approach to cleaner trucking.

“This is a bold step to cut greenhouse gases and smog and drive our ambitious climate goals forward with technology partnerships and regional collaborations that advance clean economies and healthy communities,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in a statement.

Nationally, trucks and buses account for 4% of vehicles on the road but are responsible for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation — and are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Just this week, the American Trucking Associations reported that the trucking industry moved 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Trucks moved 67.7% of surface freight between the U.S. and Canada and 83.1% of cross-border trade with Mexico, for a total of $772 billion worth of goods.

The states that signed the MOU will develop an action plan over the next six months that recommends ways of developing the electric truck market. They’ll be working through the multi-state Zero-Emission Vehicle Task Force facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a regional association of eight state air quality agencies.

Maryland officials said they are sensitive to the fact that the transportation sector is still recovering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 emergency, and will work to develop a market-friendly strategy to reduce emissions while preserving and creating jobs. Several states are said to be considering weighing tax credits for consumers to prime the market.

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how critical our freight partners are in keeping the supply chain moving and driving our economy,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater. “A successful path forward to reducing emissions and creating jobs starts with the public sector, private sector and our communities working together as a team.”

In addition to Maryland and D.C., the other states in the new compact are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.

Chances are, the work of California to promote electric trucks will serve as a model for the national effort.

Last month, the California Air Resources Board, an important climate agency in the Golden State, enacted a first of its kind regulation to boost sales of zero-emission trucks. The policy, called the Advanced Clean Trucks rule would require truck manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission trucks in California starting in 2024, with the requirements gradually increasing in subsequent years.

“Our efforts in California will be magnified through the efforts of this multi-state coalition to reduce emissions and improve air quality, especially crucial in communities where our most vulnerable citizens live,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. “By working together, we can move toward a cleaner future.”

This won’t be Maryland’s first effort to reduce emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. As part of the settlement in the Volkswagen “defeat devices” case, the Maryland Department of the Environment approved more than $2 million in funding and worked with five private fleets to replace 27 older diesel vehicles with new alternative fueled vehicles. 

The agency has also hosted roundtable discussions with industry, communities, state agencies and advocacy groups on ways to move forward with programs and policies to reduce emission from heavy-duty diesel vehicles.

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Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.