August 15, 2016 / 11:26 PM / 2 years ago

Obama rule to cut truck emissions amid campaign climate debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is expected on Tuesday to issue final rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from medium and heavy duty trucks over the next decade, likely one of the last major climate-related rules President Barack Obama will issue before he leaves office.

The commercial vehicle rules, which the administration says could cut 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, could help put the United States on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 23 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. However, that is still short of Obama’s pledge at last year’s Paris climate summit to reduce emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, according to research organization the Rhodium Group.

The rules for commercial vehicles apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, buses and work trucks. The administration has estimated previously the rules would cut fuel costs by about $170 billion, surpassing the $25 billion projected costs for new technology by 2027.

Among the companies the commercial vehicle rules affect are Cummins Inc, Eaton Corp, and truck makers such as Daimler AG, Navistar International Corp PACCAR Inc and Volvo AB.

Brian Mormino, executive director for worldwide environmental strategy and compliance at Cummins, said manufacturers need time to redesign vehicles so they can meet the new standards economically. “We are going to pick the technologies that are most cost efficient for our customers,” he said.

The rules have put unions and environmentalists at odds. Top United Auto Workers leaders in February met with regulators to raise concerns that higher regulatory costs could hurt workers when commercial truck demand is slumping.

However, the California Air Resources Board urged U.S. regulators in October to move up the effective date of the emissions reductions to 2024 from 2027.

The commercial vehicle emissions curbs are one of several steps the Obama administration has taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars, light trucks, airplanes and power plants without the collaboration of the Republican-controlled Congress. The long-term results will depend on what Congress, the courts and his successor in the Oval Office do over the next few years.

ISSUE IN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Obama’s climate policy is a central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has promised to both continue Obama administration regulations and expand her use of executive authority to achieve deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Clinton has pledged to regulate oil and natural gas fracking almost out of existence, although her proposals have been met with skepticism by opponents and proponents of the oil and gas-drilling technology.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has vowed to undo the environmental regulations proposed by Obama as a central part of his economic plan. Campaigning in Pennsylvania and other coal states, Trump has blamed the EPA for the demise of the coal industry and vowed to put miners back to work.

He also vowed to undo the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.

Separately, the Supreme Court in February stayed the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from power plants to allow a lower court to decide later this year or next year on a legal challenge by 27 states.

The next president’s appointees at regulatory agencies will also get a say. The auto industry has an opportunity between now and April 2018 to persuade the next administration to rewrite rules requiring sharp cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. Industry lobbyists, for example, have proposed giving auto makers credits toward emissions compliance for installing advanced safety systems such as automatic braking.

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