New Actions Will Deliver Cleaner Air, Healthier Neighborhoods, and Better Transportation

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris is announcing major federal actions that will expand clean public transit and school buses, reduce emissions from dirty diesel trucks, and create good-paying jobs. The Biden-Harris Administration will modernize public transit that connects people to their jobs, school, health care, and loved ones, freight trucks and ports that move goods through the American economy, and the iconic American yellow buses that bring children safely to school leveraging investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan investments, as well as a new proposed rule that would set heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards. Together, these actions will deliver better transportation for the American people while reducing air pollution that has long overburdened low-income communities and communities of color. They also boost American leadership on the zero-emissions transit, trucking, and port technologies of the future—to create good-paying, union jobs, improve public health, and confront climate change. 

Heavy-duty vehicles, like buses and trucks, make up nearly one-quarter of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions, and heavy-duty vehicles are the largest contributor of nitrogen oxides (NOx)—air pollution that is known to cause asthma, heart and lung disease, and other serious respiratory issues. Neighborhoods near highways, ports, and other congested areas are especially impacted by health problems and premature deaths associated with dirty diesel exhaust. These burdens disproportionately impact people of color and low-income households.

To seize new economic opportunities and address these environmental injustices and climate concerns, while expanding public transit and ensuring efficient delivery of goods, the Administration is announcing a fleet of new and expanded actions to advance clean heavy-duty vehicles, as part of our electric, zero-emissions transportation future:

  • Cleaner, More Convenient Public Transit: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the single largest investment in public transit in history. As part of the historic $5.5 billion expansion of the Low- and No-Emission Transit Vehicle Program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is announcing $1.1 billion in funding for 2022 and an additional $372 million under the Bus and Bus Facilities program. The Low-No Program helps state and local governments purchase U.S.-built electric transit buses and other cleaner models, to improve local air quality and expand affordable, accessible, transportation options in communities across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law increased Low-No program funding by ten times, compared to the prior five years.  Also, as a result of changes enacted in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grants will dedicate funding to workforce training that helps protect and upskill transit workers – ensuring that those who work on transit vehicles today are ready to do so in the future. To keep transit workers on the job and transit services running, DOT is also announcing $2.2 billion in funding to 35 transit agencies across 18 states through the American Rescue Plan.
  • Saving Lives, Reducing Emissions: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a proposed rule that would, if finalized, dramatically reduce harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and set stronger greenhouse gas emissions standards for certain heavy-duty vehicle categories. This proposed rule would ensure heavy-duty vehicles and engines are as clean as possible while helping jump-start the transition to zero-emission vehicles in the heavy-duty fleet. When fully implemented, this rule will save roughly 2,000 lives annually, eliminate 18,000 cases of childhood asthma, and lead to 1.1 million fewer missed days of school.
  • Electrifying School Buses: The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding $17 million to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission school buses. Through the American Rescue Plan, $7 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses in underserved communities with new, zero-emission electric buses. In addition, $10 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses with new cleaner buses through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebate Program. This funding complements the $5 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for clean school buses, the first tranche of which will become available in the coming months.
  • Lower Emissions from Ports: The Department of Transportation is using new project eligibilities in the Port Infrastructure Development Program – which is now funded at the highest levels ever through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – to advance clean port equipment like electric vehicle charging infrastructure for drayage trucks, cargo equipment, and harbor craft. Grant applicants are encouraged to submit projects that reduce emissions, strengthen resilience, improve air quality in fenceline communities, and plan for the zero-emission ports of the future.
  • Innovation on Clean Trucks of the Future: The Department of Energy is partnering with industry to expand zero-emission truck technology through its SuperTruck 3 Program, with the latest round of $127 million in funding focused for the first time on reducing costs and improving durability in hydrogen and battery electric trucks.
  • Leading by Example: The General Services Administration is doubling the amount of zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicle models available to federal agencies, charging towards 100% zero emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035.

These steps build upon President Biden’s Executive Order on Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks, which he signed in August 2021 alongside American automakers and autoworkers, launching development of smart fuel efficiency and emissions standards across all vehicles. President Biden and Vice President Harris also secured historic investments in clean transportation through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan. The announcement today of $1.1 billion for clean transit buses through the $5 billion Lo-No Program expansion, $17 million for clean school buses, and the ongoing buildout of a national EV charging network will transform bus transit from city centers to rural towns – improving connectivity and quality of life – while contributing to President Biden’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

Together, today’s actions will:

Electrify Our Buses
To accelerate our transition to clean public transit, over $5.5 billion is being infused into the Department of Transportation’s popular Low- and No-Emission Transit Vehicle Program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – by far the largest ever investment in this program, and ten times larger than the last five years of funding. The Low-No Program helps state and local governments purchase or lease zero-emission and low-emission transit buses and other vehicles and expand or retrofit supporting facilities. These include vehicles that use technologies such as battery electric and fuel-cell power to provide clean, quieter, and more efficient transit service in communities across the country. In 2022, $1.1 billion will be granted to clean and electrify transit buses – representing almost a billion dollars in new investment compared to last year. This comes on top of nearly $2 billion over five years, and $372 million in 2022, provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program to be used in part for low or no emissions bus projects.  The clean buses purchased by these grants will be made here in the United States, creating manufacturing jobs in places like Minnesota, Alabama, South Carolina, and California.

Also, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the first-ever dedicated investment in our transit workforce to support the transition to new clean technologies like battery electric buses.  Five percent of grants under the program – up to $280 million over five years – will be used to fund workforce development training, including registered apprenticeships and other labor-management training programs, to train and upskill transit workers to maintain and operate zero emission vehicles and related charging infrastructure.

To keep all of these buses running – along with our country’s trains, ferries and other transit services – the Department of Transportation is also announcing $2.2 billion in grants to 35 transit agencies across 18 states. These funds are made available through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and will help public transit agencies pay for day-to-day operations, keep tens of thousands of employees on the payroll, and provide essential transportation services to workers across America.

The EPA is also moving to deploy more clean school buses – awarding $17 million in rebates to fund electric zero-emission and low-emission school buses. Through the American Rescue Plan, $7 million is being awarded to replace old diesel school buses with new, zero-emission electric buses. These funds are reserved exclusively for school districts in underserved communities, tribal schools, and the private fleets serving those schools. In addition, the EPA awarded $10 million to replace old diesel school buses with new electric, diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas buses through longstanding Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates. Later this year, major new investments funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $5 billion clean school bus program will allow EPA to greatly expand the impacts of clean school bus deployment.

Reduce Truck Emissions, Save Lives
Today, the EPA announced a proposed rule that would reduce NOx emissions from new trucks by up to 90% by 2031 compared to today’s standards. The current regulations set under the Clean Air Act for trucks were last updated over 20 years ago. However, trucks meeting this standard are still major sources of NOx and other harmful pollutants.

All traditional truck engines combust fuel which leads to creation of NOx – a harmful pollutant and precursor to the formation of smog and particulates. This pollution makes it difficult to breathe, triggers asthma and other lung diseases and is associated with premature death. These harmful conditions disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. Without the actions taken today and the resulting shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles, these communities will continue to bear the brunt of these emissions.

When this rule is fully implemented, there will be numerous benefits to communities around the country, including:

  • Lives Saved: Roughly 2,000 premature deaths avoided and 6,700 fewer hospital and ER visits each year;
  • Healthy School Kids: 18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma and 1.1 million fewer missed days of school each year;
  • Productive Communities: 78,000 fewer missed days of work each year.

In addition to strengthening NOx regulations, EPA and DOT are preparing to redouble the Administration’s commitment to zero-emissions trucks by using the upcoming Heavy-Duty GHG Phase 3 Program to set ambitious greenhouse gas and efficiency standards beginning in 2030. Because costs have fallen and state and local policy will drive deployment, zero-emission trucks and buses are entering the market much faster than anticipated when rules were previously set. To account for this, EPA is considering technical updates to its standards for model years 2027 to 2029 to better reflect new levels of market penetration in segments with expected zero-emission vehicle deployment. 

Clean Our Port Operations
The ports on our coasts, rivers, and Great Lakes will need to be transformed to eliminate pollution affecting neighboring communities, address climate change, and strengthen supply chain resilience. This includes a focus on reducing emissions from heavy-duty road vehicles and rail that play key roles in port operations.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the largest investment ever in the DOT’s Port Infrastructure Development Program – with the expansion designed to advance the Administration’s climate and environmental justice goals. Grant applicants are encouraged to submit projects that reduce emissions, strengthen resilience, and improve air quality in fenceline communities. These investments will touch all points of port operations – cleaning cargo handling equipment, harbor craft, and building out needed charging infrastructure for drayage trucks. The program also encourages master planning for port electrification and grid upgrades. In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funded DOT to issue new grants to reduce truck idling and emissions at ports, including through the advancement of port electrification, which will complement other port investments.

Catalyze Zero Emission Truck Infrastructure
Through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Departments of Energy and Transportation are making significant investments in updating the nation’s trucking fleets and freight infrastructure to be cleaner and more efficient.

To spur investment in zero emission trucks, the Federal Transit Administration, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, is helping states purchase medium and heavy-duty vehicles through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. DOE’s Loan Program Office has been given expanded authority for manufacturing of clean medium and heavy-duty on-road vehicles as well as vehicles and components in the aviation, maritime, and rail sectors, pending future appropriations.

To advance the build-out of our nation’s network of 500,000 EV chargers, DOT’s recent EV charging guidance to states includes eligibility to support charging infrastructure for trucks. Given the unique needs of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, DOE’s Sustainable Transportation offices are studying how to advance clean, affordable hydrogen and electrification corridor solutions to connect ports, highways, and end users, and provide clean freight solutions to move goods and materials from first mile to the last.

Accelerate Path Towards Zero-Emission Trucks
Through major advances in zero-emissions technology, clean trucks are becoming cheaper and more readily available. Today, the National Renewable Energy Lab published a study showing that zero emission electric medium and heavy-duty trucks can reach total-cost-of-driving parity with diesel counterparts for many vehicle types this decade and for all trucks by 2035. As technology continues to improve, and more infrastructure is deployed, more and more clean trucks will become cost-effective. That’s good for business and good for the planet.

In order to continue to drive down costs, the Department of Energy is investing in trucking innovation and next generation clean technologies. In 2009, DOE launched its SuperTruck Initiative to partner with industry to improve heavy-duty truck freight efficiency by 50%. This year, SuperTruck 3 is off to the races with a combined $127 million in funding to industry focused on reducing costs and improving durability in zero-emission hydrogen and battery electric trucks. In addition, its SuperTruck 2 Program is set to conclude this year having developed cost-effective technology that doubles the fuel economy for 18-wheeler trucks.

Multiple other research projects across government and industry are targeting progress in fuel cell electric trucks, batteries, and freight efficiency, including:

  • Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) – providing a real world environment for testing large battery and fuel cell electric trucks.
  • Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium – developing cost-effective technology with industry for next generation fuel cells.
  • 21st Century Truck Partnership – launching a new electrification tech team focused on removing barriers to wide-scale truck electrification and deploying technology to improve freight efficiency.

Transform the Federal Truck Fleet
This Administration is leading by example – acting as an early adopter by transforming its federal fleet of over 110,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. [1] Today, federal agencies are able to acquire 38 different models of medium and heavy duty zero emissions vehicles through the General Services Administration – more than double the offerings in fiscal year 2021. The President’s Federal Sustainability Plan, outlined in Executive Order 14057, also calls for 100% of all annual medium and heavy-duty vehicle acquisitions to be zero emissions by 2035.

The federal government will work with American vehicle, battery, and charging equipment manufacturers and installers to transform its truck fleet. This will accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply zero-emission trucks and electric batteries – creating and sustaining good-paying, union jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and skilled trades. This federal truck transformation complements the Administration’s commitment to 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027.
 

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[1] (Non-Postal)

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