The Murphy administration’s push to transition medium- and heavy-duty trucks to zero-emission vehicles, a proposal crucial to achieving its ambitious goal to reduce climate-warming pollution, won strong support Thursday from clean-energy advocates — and surprisingly, little opposition from critics.
The state Department of Environmental Protection’s proposal aims to shift thousands of trucks — from delivery vans to long-haul tractor trailers — away from using fossil fuels to electric power, a policy that could put a huge dent in the amount of global-warming pollution contributed by the transportation sector.
If successful, the proposed rule could also lead to significant improvements in air quality for the dozens of communities of color already suffering from unequal pollution burdens, not only from traffic from diesel-belching trucks, but also from power plants and garbage incinerators. Environmental justice advocates also called for mandatory emissions reductions from those sources.
New Jersey is the first state other than California to adopt what is called the “advanced clean truck” rule. It establishes a deficit/credit program whereby truck manufacturers are spurred to buy zero-emission vehicles instead of fossil-fuel trucks.
The rule proposal, however, was described as the big first step in moving forward the Murphy administration’s twin goals of reducing global warming pollution by 80% below 2006 levels by 2050 and its target of having 100% clean energy by midcentury. It is modeled after a California rule adopted last summer that aims to reduce emissions from trucks, a particular problem in urban neighborhoods near ports and highways.
“This rule will help us in reducing emissions in our neighborhood,’’ said Kim Gaddy, an environmental justice advocate in Newark, who lives near the city’s port. “While it is an economic engine for the region, it is a death zone for our neighborhood,’’ she said.
Jasmine Jennings, of the environmental law group Earthjustice, agreed. “New Jersey is in a position to make a real difference for people living in environmental justice communities,’’ she said.
But others argued the state needs to do more. Nicky Sheets of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance said the proposed rule needs to be amended to include mandatory emission reductions in overburdened communities.