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November 23, 2010

Sierra Club Trucks It to EPA Truck Hearings

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Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held two public hearings, in Chicago, IL and Cambridge, MA, on the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for the biggest trucks on the road.

Sierra Club members and supporters came out in strong numbers to show their support for EPA to tackle climate change and America's dependence on oil, calling for EPA and NHTSA to set strong standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution from big trucks.

Unlike passenger vehicles, the biggest vehicles on the road - from large pickups to freight trucks and garbage trucks - have never been subject to federal fuel efficiency or global warming tailpipe pollution standards. Some heavy-duty vehicles can cover as much 150,000 miles each year while getting only 6-7 mpg. While these trucks pull a lot of weight, the bottom line is that fuel efficiency for these trucks hasn't improved since the 1970s.

Clearly, there's room for some improvement - studies show that for the biggest trucks, improvement in engine design and truck aerodynamics can decrease oil use in the biggest trucks by up to 35% by 2018.

To highlight the need for new strong standards, Sierra Club members and partners, including labor representatives, had an impressive showing at both hearings, constituting an amazing 100% of the public interest testimony at the Chicago hearing, and more than half of all testimony given in Cambridge. 

EPA heard from Sierra Club members who are concerned parents, students, truck owners, business owners, and public health officials on the many reasons why it’s important to them that EPA takes the lead in addressing climate change and our oil addiction. 

Some members cited the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, others stressed the need to preserve a livable planet for America's young people and future generations, and others talked about the proposed standard's benefits-- saving consumers and truckers up to $74,000, reducing our dependence on oil by more than 500 million barrels, and cutting carbon dioxide pollution by 250 million metric tons. Two Iraq War veterans who spoke in Cambridge stressed the dire need for the U.S. to end its reliance on foreign oil. 

The rich, personal testimony provided by Sierra Club members at both hearings made an impression on EPA officials running the hearings - we hope it energizes the agency to get the standards right.

Though the hearings are over, there's still plenty to be done when it comes to transportation to address oil dependence and climate change. Join us as a Sierra Club Transportation Activist in our work for a 21st century transportation system that moves us beyond oil.

For a play-by-play of the action at last week's hearings, check out the live tweeting by @SierraClubIL from the Chicago hearing and by @SierraClubLive from the Cambridge hearing, hashtags #BigTrucks and #BiggerTrucks.

You can also submit your comments to EPA on the heavy duty truck standards here.

By Rachel Butler, National Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Green Transportation Team. Photo by Gina Coplon-Newfield.

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