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Another voice: EPA gets tough on big rigs

Published Aug. 22, 2016

Urgent action is needed to try to stanch the damage from the burning of fossil fuels, and the difficulty of doing so does not make the task any less urgent. The Obama administration took a good step forward last week in ordering a 25 percent reduction over 10 years in carbon emissions from heavy-duty trucks, including semis, and a lesser reduction in emissions from delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles.

The new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, tougher than what the administration had initially proposed, rely on trucking companies adopting cost-effective technologies, including more efficient engines and devices to reduce drag, steps that even the American Trucking Association said could achieve emissions targets without being "unduly disruptive." The rules are expected to reduce fuel costs by as much as $170 billion and could cut 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions over the next decade, setting a path for other nations to follow.

Heavy-duty trucks account for about 5 percent of the nation's on-road vehicles but 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources. In recent years they have been the second-fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases, so curtailing them should have a real effect on the carbon emissions that feed global warming. And despite denials by Donald Trump and other Republican leaders, global warming is real and dangerous and already affecting us, as can be seen in the smoke from California fires and the mud from receding Louisiana floodwaters.

In a sense, the new EPA rules make federal standards even tougher than California's rules for in-state trucks. (EPA regulations cover interstate trucks, accounting for about 60 percent of those on California roads.) The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is responsible for ensuring that the region meets federal air quality standards, is among several regional agencies pushing the EPA to also tighten limits on truck emissions of nitrous oxides, which are key components of regional smog.

The federal government ought to move on those regulations as quickly as is reasonable. This is exactly what the United States should be doing: setting an international example in fighting global warming.

© 2016 Los Angeles Times