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Rule change could benefit Oregon environment and public health, but some think it would raise vehicle prices

PMG FILE PHOTO - An Oregon commission has approved a new rule that could put cleaner trucks on state highways and roads.Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission has approved the Clean Trucks Rule, a mandate aimed at cutting emissions by requiring production of cleaner trucks.

Advocates say the rule will benefit the environment and public health; critics say it will hurt truck manufacturers and raise prices on trucks, which farmers and ranchers rely on for shipping.

The rule has two parts. First, it mandates manufacturers boost production of electric trucks. Second, it requires new medium- and heavy-duty diesel trucks sold in Oregon to meet stricter emissions standards.

ocbThe first rule requires up to half of the new medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses and vans sold in Oregon by 2030 have no emissions, and up to 75% be electric by 2035. The second requires all new heavy-duty diesel vehicles sold in Oregon to emit 75% less nitrogen dioxide than current levels starting in 2025 and 90% less by 2027.

The rule only applies to manufacturers and does not require anyone to buy the trucks.

After California, Oregon is the second state to adopt the rule, which will go into effect in 2024 and apply to 2025 or later models.

Advocates say the rule will decrease tailpipe pollution contributing to smog and ozone formation, promote cleaner air for disadvantaged communities and reduce diesel exhaust that may cause cancer, lung disease and other health problems.

"The transportation sector alone is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, so this moves us toward cleaner air," said Rachel Sakata, senior air quality planner for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. "We're on a path to zero emissions."

Critics say the rule will raise the price of new trucks, will rapidly push a fleet of electric vehicles on a state that doesn't have sufficient infrastructure set up yet and will unfairly penalize truck manufacturers.

"It is never the right decision to increase the cost of goods, which these rules will do," said Shelly Boshart Davis, a state representative whose family runs a trucking business.

Trucking industry leaders estimate the price of a new heavy-duty electric truck will be $58,000 more than a comparable diesel unit.

DEQ's Sakata confirmed that the $58,000 estimate is reasonable but she said that cost would be defrayed by long-term savings on fuel and maintenance. Mary Anne Cooper, vice president of government affairs at the Oregon Farm Bureau, said because many businesses can't afford the higher price tag, she expects the rule will have the opposite of its intended effect, prompting businesses to buy trucks out-of-state or keep older trucks.

"You're going to have folks holding onto vehicles for a lot longer than they would have," said Cooper. "Farm and ranch families and local Oregon businesses will actually be disincentivized from purchasing new trucks."

Jana Jarvis, president of Oregon Trucking Associations, a trade organization, said the Clean Trucks Rule most directly hurts truck manufacturers, who will be required to mass-produce electric trucks with no guarantee people will buy them.

In California, where an identical rule was approved last June, the state is pushing policies requiring agencies to buy electric trucks and offering businesses financial incentives. Oregon has no such policies.

The most obvious flaw with the new rule, critics say, is that Oregon lacks infrastructure. The state has only one large public charging station for semi-trucks, in Portland.

"We have a real issue in our state with moving policies forward with the mentality of, 'Oh, we'll get to building the infrastructure eventually,'" Cooper said.

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