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Ag groups challenge EPA’s heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards
By Doug Schmitz
Iowa Correspondent

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. – The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association joined the American Petroleum Institute June 18 in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. EPA in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the agency’s heavy-duty vehicle emissions standards for model years 2027-2032.
“Corn growers are working together with other groups to provide a low-cost, low-carbon fuel option to the American consumer,” Bryan Goodman, NCGA senior director of policy communications, told Farm World. “We argue in the lawsuit that the EPA exceeded its congressional authority with this regulation.
“The EPA chose to force a one-size-fits-all solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by relying exclusively on electric vehicles and ignoring the readily available solution that biofuels, like ethanol, bring to the table,” he said. “The decision removes an important consumer choice, and threatens to harm the economic well-being of farmers.”
He said the EPA’s action would put in place targets that those representing auto manufacturers have said will be hard to achieve.
“Toyota and others have argued for a balanced approach to emissions reductions using battery electric vehicles and other technologies, saying perfect should not be the enemy of the good,” he said.
“It’s frustrating that the administration overlooked the important role biofuels play in reducing emissions in the transportation sector, when the EPA’s own data demonstrate the air quality and human health benefits of increased ethanol blending in gasoline by replacing harmful aromatics with clean octane from ethanol,” he added. “The EPA should’ve taken a more technology-neutral approach.”
He said ethanol accounts for one-third of corn growers’ demand. “If the internal combustion engine is eliminated, the demand for ethanol will disappear, dealing a major financial blow to corn growers,” he said. “Such a development will be felt in rural communities across the country.”
On March 29, the EPA announced a final rule, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3,” that sets stronger standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles beginning in model year 2027. The new standards will be applicable to heavy-duty vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks, refuse haulers, public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses), and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor-trailer trucks).
Under the EPA’s final rule, auto manufacturers would be required to convert an annually increasing percentage of their total vehicle sales to heavy-duty zero emission vehicles, with the projected sales percentages by model year 2032 for the following categories of vehicle: 60 percent of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles for light-heavy vocational vehicles; 40 percent of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles for medium-heavy vocational vehicles; 30 percent of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles for heavy-heavy vocational vehicles; 40 percent of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles for day cab tractors; and 25 percent of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles for sleeper cab tractors.
According to the EPA, the regulations state that carbon emissions from large trucks and buses, including vocational vehicles, will have to be reduced by 45 percent from 2030, 65 percent from 2035, and 90 percent from 2040.
“This final rule would force the broad adoption of heavy-duty zero emission vehicles, despite being less than 0.3 percent of sales last year,” said David Bell, National Automotive Dealers Association director of legal affairs. “An electric truck is up to two to three times more expensive than a comparable diesel vehicle, and does not offer comparable performance and range capability.”
Moreover, Goodman cited Jeffrey Stokes and Jim Jansen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources economists, who recently noted “the magnitude of structural loss in corn demand could lead to a permanent 50-percent decrease in the price of corn, causing the top five corn-producing states – Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana – to collectively lose well over $100 billion in farmland value from corn acreage alone.
“The authors noted that such a decline would have profound implications for the financial viability of Midwestern farming operations, and the nation’s food supply,” Goodman said.
The groups also said the EPA’s standards will put America’s farmers and their livestock at risk.
“Farmers rely on heavy-duty trucks to transport livestock long distances, and they choose the most efficient routes to ensure the animals in their care remain on the vehicle for as little time as possible,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president.
“Unfortunately, heavy-duty vehicles that are powered by batteries have short ranges and require hours to charge,” he added. “Impractical regulations will extend the amount of time on the road, putting the health and safety of drivers and livestock at risk if they need to stop for long periods of time to charge.”
Harold Wolle, NCGA president and a Madelia, Minn., farmer, said, “While it could take decades to get enough electric vehicles on the road to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, lower carbon fuels such as ethanol are critical and effective climate tools that are available now.”