Edvard Pettersson

LOS ANGELES (CN) — California can proceed with its plan to require that truck manufacturers sell an increasing percentage of zero-emission medium and heavy-duty trucks in the state starting next year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that it had granted California the required waiver to enact its Advanced Clean Truck regulation. The waiver also covers a state requirement that airport shuttle fleets will be increasingly composed of zero-emission busses and a certification requirement for medium and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles.

"Under the Clean Air Act, California has longstanding authority to address pollution from cars and trucks," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. "Today’s announcement allows the state to take additional steps in reducing their transportation emissions through these new regulatory actions."

California, with its history of heavy air pollution, can set more aggressive emissions requirements than the rest of the country under the Clean Air Act but must seek waivers from the EPA to do so because normally federal law preempts state regulations. Given California's economic might, its emission standards — which also have been adopted by other states — have become the de facto standard for car manufacturers, leading to a standoff in 2019 with the Trump administration.

The state's Advanced Clean Truck regulation requires that truck makers sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales from 2024 to 2035. By 2035, zero-emission sales would need to be 55% of Class 2b – 3 light and medium-duty truck sales, 75% of Class 4 – 8 medium to heavy-duty straight truck sales, and 40% of truck tractor sales, according to the California Air Resources Board, which formulates the state's regulations.

“This is a big deal for climate action," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "Last year, California became one of the first jurisdictions in the world with a real plan to end tailpipe emissions for cars. Now, thanks to the Biden administration, we’re getting more zero-emission heavy duty trucks on the roads, expanding our world-leading efforts to cut air pollution and protect public health.”

Eight other states have moved to adopt or are working to adopt California's Advanced Clean Truck rule, according to Newsom's statement, and together with California they represent 22% of the national truck market. The state is also part of a 27-nation coalition that is working towards 100% ZEV new truck sales by 2040

California also has committed to phasing out the heavy-duty diesel trucks that haul containers from the ports to inland destinations by 2035, but a near complete absence of public charging stations for electric trucks presents a major obstacle for truckers to go green.

The lack of infrastructure to support electric trucks may become a more acute worry as soon as Jan. 1, 2024, when under a pending proposal the California Air Resources Board will only allow zero-emission trucks to be added to the register for drayage trucks serving the ports. The board is expected to vote on that proposal next month.