Biden vetoes Republican effort to poison you with truck soot (Updated)

President Joe Biden has vetoed an effort by Congressional Republicans to roll back the first update to heavy truck pollution standards in 22 years. The new soot standards targeted by Republicans are estimated to save thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars.

We expected this veto when we originally reported on Senate Republicans passing a resolution to roll back the rule in April. House Republicans went on to pass it in May. Both chambers passed the resolution expecting Biden’s veto, but despite this knowledge they still made yet another public effort to kill Americans and cost them money.

Heavy duty trucks are a primary contributor to harmful air pollution. This is particularly true for the types of pollution that harm human health, like ozone, particulate matter and NOx. While light duty vehicles do make up the majority of global warming emissions (CO2), heavy duty vehicles make far more than their fair share of these other harmful pollutants.

And so, in December, the EPA finalized a rule updating heavy truck emissions standards, the first update to these standards since 2001. The rule goes into place starting in model year 2027 and would reduce NOx emissions by 48%. But they are still significantly lighter regulations than those in some states, like California, which just made a big update to its truck regulations.

The EPA’s 2027 rule would save 2,900 lives, prevent 18,000 cases of childhood asthma and prevent 6,700 hospital admissions. It would also lead to 78,000 fewer lost days of work, 1.1 million fewer lost school days and save $29 billion per year by 2045, and when accounted for in net present value, the benefits are greater than the costs today. These benefits would go disproportionately to disadvantaged communities who live closer to truck routes and depots.

So, this rule is an unequivocal benefit. Like most environmental regulations, the rule both reduces costs and improves quality of life. It’s a no-brainer, a win-win for everyone.

And yet, Congressional Republicans voted to reverse it. The effort started in the Senate where Republicans were joined by Joe Manchin (D-WV), but otherwise the 50-49 vote was entirely along party lines. All 49 Republicans and Manchin voted to poison America and waste money, and 48 Democrats and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) voted to clean the air and save money.

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was on an extended absence at the time and missed the vote, which is what allowed the Republicans to push the measure through.

The vote then went on to the House, where 217 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted in favor of poisoning Americans, while 202 Democrats and 1 Republican voted against.

The vote was a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block federal regulatory actions. The Act was passed in 1996 but rarely used until 2017, when Congress used it several times, mostly notably to reverse consumer protections implemented under President Obama.

Even before undertaking this effort, Congressional Republicans knew that it would not become law. The move merely seized on the absence of one Democratic Senator, but it was clear that Biden would veto this effort to kill Americans and cost them money, so it was a fruitless effort from the start.

Republicans argued that the reason they want to poison everyone and cost them money is because the cost of complying with this new rule – which, once again, would savenot cost, $29 billion annually – was too high.

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) led the effort which she called “bipartisan,” despite it being supported by 266 Congressional Republicans and just 5 Democrats. She said that since past regulations have worked very well to get emissions down, then new regulations to get emissions down are not necessary – an argument that explicitly acknowledges that regulations work to reduce pollution.

She also said that the cost of complying – which could be as little as $2,568 per truck, a small fraction of the six-figure price of heavy duty vehicles – would be too high. Her statement runs counter to calculations showing that this rule would result in not only health benefits, but net financial benefit for the US.

Environmental groups praised Biden’s veto today, with the Environmental Defense Fund saying “the EPA’s commonsense protections will minimize health harms and save lives all across the country” and the Union of Concerned Scientists saying “it’s deeply disappointing that Congress used this flawed process to try and undo important public health protections” – while also pointing out that the new truck rule could, and should, be even stronger than the EPA has proposed.

Electrek’s Take

Whenever we write articles like this, we end up getting a few comments saying “stop getting political! it’s not fair that you target one party!”

We do understand the point that compliance to new regulations can cost money. And sometimes, those compliance costs are high for little benefit. But here, those compliance costs and net benefits have been calculated, and they’re positive. As is the case with so much environmental regulation these days, especially with the advent of electrification and renewable generation, we can improve both the economy and health at the same time. That is the case here as well.

All we do here at Electrek is advocate for electric vehicles. We do this openly – you know that this is the position we’re coming from, and you know why we’re doing it. We’re doing it because we like clean air, we like energy efficiency, we like technology, we like better cars. We don’t make a secret about this. We want to live in a better world, and we’re pretty sure you do, too.

In our coverage of these efforts to live in a better world, there is one party which seems to be unequivocally against doing so. When we cover efforts to make things better, these efforts are not being led by republicans. And when we cover efforts to make things worsethose efforts are being led by republicans.

So when we point out, time and time again, that republicans are voting to poison you, this is not an example of us being partisan. This is an example of republicans picking the side of poison, and us reporting on it factually.

And in this case they weren’t even going to get it into law. They knew this, and yet they still voted for it, as if to say: “hey, if given the chance, we want everyone to know that our goal is to kill you and make things worse.” It wasn’t even necessary for them to do so, they could try to keep it a secret or something, but it’s all out in the open. As the saying goes: “when people show you who they are, believe them.”

And so, we have to call these efforts what they are: efforts to poison you and cost you money. We would be happy to see republicans stop these efforts, and they can choose to do so anytime, and we will gladly and fairly report on it if they do.

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