July 8, 2024

$1 Trillion. The Cost of EPA’s Phase 3 Emissions Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency finalized its Phase 3 greenhouse gas rule (GHG3) this March. As the trucking industry has noted, that rule sets aggressive standards to reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. Though indifferent on its face as to how those emission reductions are achieved, the GHG3 rule would, in effect, require an annually increasing percentage of total vehicle sales to be electric vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032.

The GHG3 rule seems to ignore the realities of freight transportation:

  • battery-operated trucks are heavier, reducing the amount of freight that can be transported;
  • current electric trucks have limited range;
  • the battery recharging process consumes truck driver hours of service; and
  • there are relatively few truck recharging stations at this time.

Two recent developments are causing concern about the viability and legality of the EPA GHG3 rule – and other emissions programs, such as California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) “Clean Truck Check Program.”

First, who is going to pay for the GHG3 plan? The Clean Freight Coalition, a group committed to exploring realistic reductions in emissions, commissioned a study on the cost of the electrical grid necessary to support the GHG3 rule. The study was conducted by management consulting firm Roland Berger, a firm with expertise in infrastructure. Roland Berger found that the GHG3 rule would cost $1 trillion just to have the power grid available for electronic commercial trucks. Specifically, the study identified that $620 billion of investments would be needed for charging infrastructure, with an additional $370 billion to upgrade distribution grid networks – in other words, $1 trillion total.

That $1 trillion has not been funded by Congress nor is it in the EPA budget. Who is going to pay for the GHG3 plan?

That $1 trillion, by the way, does not include the cost of the battery-operated trucks themselves. A new Class 8 diesel truck costs about $180,000, while a similar electric truck comes in at $400,000, a figure far out of the reach for the small truckers who make up 95% of the industry.

Second, is the GHG3 plan even legal? Several lawsuits are already contesting the EPA rule, as well as the CARB program. Now there is a new reason to doubt the legality of the EPA emissions reduction scheme. The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the so-called Chevron doctrine. The Chevron doctrine said courts must give deference to “reasonable” decisions by regulatory agencies like the EPA when the underlying statute is unclear.

The underlying statute for the EPA GHG3 rule is the Clean Air Act, legislation first adopted in 1970, long before the untested technologies and electrical grid expansion required by the GHG3 rule were ever dreamed of. Several legal analysts have labeled rules based on the Clean Air Act as possibly vulnerable under the Supreme Court ruling, while legality of the CARB “Clean Truck Check Program” is, in turn, dependent on a Clean Air Act waiver from the EPA. Under the Supreme Court decision, trial courts no longer need to defer to the unproven (and unfunded) technological hypotheses of federal bureaucrats.