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Pedal to the Metal: 15 States and D.C. Seek to Achieve 100% Zero Emission Vehicle Sales for New Medium-and Heavy-Duty Vehicles by 2050

15 states and the District of Columbia announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this week to support sales of electric medium and heavy-duty vehicles, such as delivery trucks, school buses, long-haul trucks, and transit buses. These states – including California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland – have agreed to “work together to foster a self-sustaining market” for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles by using the Multi-State ZEV Task Force (Task Force), which was established in 2013. The Signatory States to this MOU (i) set a goal that, by 2050, 100% of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold will be zero-emission vehicles and (ii) also identified an interim goal of 30% of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales be ZEV by 2030. Although this MOU does not create any legal rights or obligations, and Signatory States can withdraw from the MOU at any time, it sends a strong signal about the priorities of these states and the likelihood of multi-state action to create incentives for medium- and heavy-duty ZEV vehicles in the coming years.

Who Signed the MOU?

The signatories to the MOU are California, Connecticut, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

What Will the MOU Do?

This MOU sets out the Signatory State’s general commitment to medium- and heavy-duty ZEV vehicles and identifies specific actions the Signatory States will take, either individually or through the Task Force.

  • Task Force: Under this new MOU, the Task Force will develop an action plan “to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification of medium and heavy-duty vehicles,” also known as the Zero Emission Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Action Plan. In developing this plan, the Task Force will consider a number of issues and factors, including Signatory State adoption of the California Advanced Clean Trucks rule under Clean Air Act Section 177.

  • State Actions: The MOU also identifies specific State actions to support the overall 2030 and 2050 goals. First, the States will report on their progress toward these goals, and this data will be used to determine whether the 2030 interim goal needs to be revised. Second, the Signatory States agree to “lead by example” by increasing the electrification of their government and quasigovernmental agency fleets. Third, the States agree to focus on deploying ZEV buses in disadvantaged communities who have historically borne disproportionate air pollution burdens. Fourth, States will seek to coordinate with other state agencies, such as state public utility commissions, environmental agencies, planning agencies, and transportation agencies. Fifth, the States agree to “explore opportunities to cooperate, coordinate and partner, as appropriate,” with several listed stakeholders, including truck manufacturers, fuel providers, charging infrastructure companies, community organizations, corporate fleet owners, and utilities.

What Are the Limits of the MOU?

The MOU specifically emphasizes that it is a voluntary document. The MOU does not create any enforceable legal rights or obligations, does not remove each state’s discretion to implement its commitments “in light of the Signatory State’s individual circumstances, laws, and policies,” and does not create reciprocal obligations (wherein one state would be forced to undertake actions because of the actions of another Signatory State). The MOU states that Signatory States are free to withdraw at any time. The MOU sets out how Signatory States can terminate their participation in the MOU. It also states that other States may join and sign the MOU and that the MOU can be amended “upon the collective agreement” of the Signatory States. Further, although this non-binding, unenforceable MOU demonstrates a commitment to reducing Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle emissions, any change to regulatory emission standards would require rulemaking.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume X, Number 199


About this Author

Julius M. Redd Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Julius is a litigator and counselor who maintains a national practice.

He represents clients in complex matters in civil litigation and administrative regulatory proceedings arising under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). His ability to connect with clients and learn the intricacies of their businesses allows him to align his legal counsel with targeted actions that advance clients’ goals....

Daniel B. Schulson Environmental & Administrative Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Daniel Schulson applies the insight and experience he gained from working in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clients’ challenges on a broad array of issues.

He assists clients with many aspects of environmental and administrative law, including compliance counseling, permitting, due diligence, audits, commenting on agency rulemakings, administrative enforcement defense, and litigation.

Examples of Dan’s experience include:

  • Providing counsel to the U.S. government-appointed Independent Compliance Monitor and Auditor in conjunction with the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” plea agreement and consent decree.
  • Resolving issues for automotive manufacturers including those involving vehicle and engine certification, and compliance with EPA and California Air Resources Board requirements for obtaining Certificates of Conformity and Executive Orders.
  • Advising original equipment manufacturers on vehicle import regulations as well as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration motor vehicle safety standards, emissions, and fuel economy requirements.
  • Advising clients on mobile source compliance, including both on-road and non-road requirements.
  • Counseling companies on a wide range of stationary source permitting and compliance issues under the Clean Air Act and comparable state laws.
  • Preparing comments for companies and trade associations on both federal and state proposed air regulations.
  • Counseling clients on “voluntary disclosures” under EPA’s self-disclosure policy and similar state-based policies.
  • Negotiating favorable administrative settlements with EPA and state regulators for alleged violations of environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
  • Defending a leading crop-protection company in a multi-million dollar EPA administrative enforcement action.
  • Representing leading crop-protection companies in Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Endangered Species Act federal litigation challenging product registrations.
  • Advising companies including a global pharmaceutical company and a major oil and gas company on the environmental aspects of corporate transactions and conducting related due diligence.
  • Drafting a successful petition for review and subsequent state supreme court briefs in defense of a solid waste recycling company facing toxic tort claims brought by individuals alleging agricultural operations constituted a nuisance.

While at EPA, Dan formulated effective litigation strategies to defend agency actions and advised senior EPA officials on matters arising under a variety of statutes including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act. Dan was awarded an EPA commendation for outstanding counseling on administrative and regulatory law issues, and a Department of Justice commendation for assisting in the successful defense of EPA’s suite of greenhouse gas regulations.

Felicia H. Barnes Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Felicia Barnes maintains a complex litigation and regulatory practice with a particular focus on air issues.

She has advocated for clients on landmark issues in administrative rulemakings and related litigation, particularly in the oil and natural gas sector. Felicia has substantial litigation experience, including appellate litigation and especially before the D.C. Circuit. As part of her regulatory practice, Felicia advises on complex environmental compliance issues, assists with internal investigations and enforcement defense, and evaluates...