BOSTON — Massachusetts is preparing to enact some of the most stringent regulations for truck emissions in the nation, as the Baker administration seeks to curb tailpipe pollution to meet its ambitious environmental goals.
The new regulations, unveiled by the state Department of Environmental Protection last week, would adopt California’s accelerated truck standards requiring an increasing percentage of all medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold to be zero-emission starting in 2025.
Once finalized, the regulations will require manufacturers to increase zero-emission truck sales in the state between 30% and 50% by 2030 and 40% and 75% by 2035.
MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg said making the tough truck-emission regulations permanent “will help to reduce air pollution across the commonwealth and protect our environment and the public health.”
“The transportation sector accounts for about 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions statewide,” Suuberg said.
“Adoption of these rules will also address environmental justice concerns in communities that are disproportionately impacted by medium- and heavy-duty vehicle traffic.”
State environmental officials say the rules will lead to more zero-emission trucks on the road in Massachusetts, which will in turn reduce gasoline and diesel fuel consumption and maintenance costs due to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The move will make Massachusetts one of five states — including Washington, Oregon, New York, New Jersey — to adopt California’s stringent rules.
Environmental groups say the move will help the state meet is ambitious climate change goals, which call for “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.
Critics say the move will have a cost for consumers, businesses and local governments that use these types of vehicles for delivering freight and goods and providing other services from municipal trash collection to construction.
Some groups have criticized the Baker administration’s decision to post the emergency regulations, with no debate, on the final day of the year.
“Major policies that ban the sale of entire categories of vehicles is a decision that should be debated by the Legislature and not rushed through by unelected bureaucrats before a major holiday,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative, pro-business group.
Baker administration officials defended their decision to issue the emergency rules at the end of the year, pointing out they are required under federal law to issue vehicle emissions regulations at least two years before they take effect.
They also point out that the rules won’t implemented until April and the public will be able to comment on the proposed regulations before they are finalized.
To be sure, Massachusetts adopted California’s Low Emission Vehicle program regulations in 1991 and has updated it to remain in sync with the West Coast state’s regulations.
The new regulations involves emission standards for vehicles built in 2025 and also medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines.
The move follows the collapse of a multi-state pact aimed at reducing regional vehicle emissions for both trucks and passenger vehicles.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker pulled the plug on the Transportation Climate Initiative after the agreement failed to gain traction among other states.
Baker had been one of the most vocal proponents of the TCI, touting it as key to the state’s effort to reduce the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
But most of the original dozen states that were included in the initiative had backed away, and when Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he won’t be joining the pact, Baker had no choice but to pull Massachusetts out.
The pact called for creating a cap-and-invest program targeting gas and diesel fuel consumption. Under the plan, suppliers who delivered fuel across state lines would have to be taxed on emissions above limits that still must be set.
Those costs were expected to be passed on to consumers.
Supporters of the plan argued that higher gas prices would encourage people to drive less often and turn to public transit, reducing emissions. Critics said the plan would have driven up costs at the pump while doing little to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions.
TCI was projected to reduce regional emissions by as much as 26% in the next 11 years and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for green projects over the next decade.
The Baker administration says it is also focused on using $10 billion in federal funds headed to the state from the new jobs and infrastructure law, a portion of which will be devoted to helping the state meets its climate-change goals.
Before the new vehicle regulations become permanent MassDEP will hold public hearings and solicit comment online.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.