Governor Dan McKee, state officials and environmental champion legislators announce that Rhode Island will join seven states, including Massachusetts, in adopting a policy aimed at reining in carbon pollution by slashing tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, and SUVs.
With transportation causing around 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the Act on Climate mandating that the Rhode Island achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, the regulations would require that manufacturers will deliver cleaner vehicles to Rhode Island consumers.
“The Act on Climate put us on the clock for meeting major carbon reduction mandates, and it’s clear to me that Rhode Island will only meet the mandates by addressing the transportation sector head-on,” said Governor McKee. “Implementing the Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks policy will help us do exactly that, minimize smog across the state but especially in environmental justice communities, and ensure adequate customer choice on electric vehicles in the future.”
The adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) and Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) standards is a pivotal moment in Rhode Island’s efforts to fight climate change. The regulations filed by the McKee Administration’s Department of Environmental Management would require that, by 2035, all new cars imported for sale in Rhode Island be non-gas powered.
Manufacturers already are taking action to meet consumer demand and these emerging regulatory requirements. For example, by 2030, Ford zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) production will be 40 percent of all cars manufactured, Volvo production will be 100 percent ZEVs, Volkswagen will be 50 percent ZEVs, and Nissan 40 percent. By 2040, Honda will only make ZEVs. Tesla already is producing 100 percent ZEVs.
“America’s new-car and -truck dealers are committed to selling consumers the vehicles that they want and need,” states the National Automobile Dealers Association’s website. “Electric and hybrid vehicles are here, and America’s vast franchised dealer network is eager, excited, and essential to the successful deployment to the mass retail market. Dealers are all-in on EVs and are investing billions of dollars in their stores and staff to improve the purchasing experience and reduce barriers to electric-vehicle ownership.”
Automakers first will deliver ZEVs to those states where they have a legal compliance obligation to do so. States that have not adopted the ACCII regulations will get whatever remaining inventory of a manufacturer’s production for each year based on market conditions. Thus, if Rhode Island does not adopt these rules, state auto dealers and customers will likely not have broad access to ZEVs in-state, and customers will need to travel to neighboring states to access inventory and purchase them. The regulations only apply to vehicle manufacturers. The rules do not affect used cars or regulate local auto dealers or customers. Through the new rules, Rhode Island will require that all new cars sold in 2035 and beyond are ZEVs. Gasoline-powered cars can still be driven in Rhode Island, registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and sold as used cars to new owners.
“The RI Act on Climate directs all state agencies to move forward under their respective authorities to meet the greenhouse gas reduction mandates set in the law. Today, DEM is taking a major step to fight climate change in the transportation sector,” said Department of Environmental Management Director Terry Gray, whose agency will hold a virtual public listening session May 18 to discuss the new regulations and begin the rulemaking process. “Rhode Island is joining our neighboring states to cut GHGs and air pollution, which have the most impact on our communities that border our major roads and highways, creating a disproportionate impact in those neighborhoods. The environmental and health impacts from improved air quality in these areas is significant. In terms of economic impact, states joining together to send a clear signal to the market will result in greater economies of scale, driving down the prices of ZEVs, and ensuring that Rhode Island dealers and customers have full access to electric vehicles.”
“As we work to advance our clean energy and energy efficiency objectives, we remain steadfast in our commitment to also lowering our transportation emissions through electric vehicle adoption,” said Acting State Energy Commissioner Chris Kearns. “We have seen Rhode Islanders respond strongly to the state’s electric vehicle rebate program since it launched last July. The Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks regulations and process, which Governor McKee has announced today, will help make significant strides towards our goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”
The state officials praised Representative Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth) and Senator Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown) and their cosponsors for their joint bills (H6055/S0195) calling for Rhode Island to implement the ACCII and ACT standards.
“Today’s a great day for clean air in Rhode Island,” said Representative Cortvriend. “For too long, we’ve been putting our neighbors living near high-traffic areas at greater risk of serious health problems including asthma, cancer, and heart disease. With this effort, we join our neighbors in standing up for the health and safety of all Rhode Islanders. We can do this, and we’ll all be healthier when we do.”
“This is a huge step forward,” said Senator DiMario, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture. “We thank Governor McKee and the Department of Environmental Management for taking this important step for the benefit of the environment and the well-being of Rhode Islanders. Motor vehicle emissions cause major health problems, especially for children and those living in high-traffic areas. By reducing those emissions, we’re creating a healthier, safer world for all of us.”
ACCII is a set of regulations that originated in California that the California Air Resources Board adopted to reduce smog-causing pollution and GHG emissions from California’s light-duty vehicle fleet. Its predecessor, Advanced Clean Cars I (ACCI), which Rhode Island already has adopted, includes a ZEV program that requires carmakers to produce for sale in states adopting the rule an increasing number of new ZEVs each year, culminating in about 7 to 8 percent ZEV sales by model year 2025. ACCII builds on ACCI by requiring a ramp-up of ZEV sales from 35 percent in 2026 to 100 percent in 2035. Eligible ZEVs include battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles, allowing for customer choice.
The federal Clean Air Act allowed California to set motor vehicle emissions standards that are tougher than federal ones because California was struggling with severe smog problems. The Clean Air Act also allowed other states to opt into the California standards, and for decades, Rhode Island has enforced the tougher standards, including the ZEV program, instead of the federal ones. These standards have led to improvements in air quality, although much work remains.
Rhode Island joins Washington, Virginia, Vermont, Oregon, New York, and Massachusetts in adopting the ACCII California standards. Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey are currently moving forward with adoption. Rhode Island also joins 17 other jurisdictions that are working to foster a self-sustaining market for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, many of which will do so by adopting ACT California standards.
The effect that the regulations will have on the state meeting statutory mandates in the Act on Climate is clear. Light duty vehicle emissions are projected to be 2.52 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO₂e) a year in 2025. By 2030, the ACCII regs would drive that down to about 1.83 MMTCO₂e/year as compared to not doing anything and ending up with a reduction to about 2.16 MMTCO₂e/year. Similarly, emissions from trucks would be around 1.14 MMTCO₂e a year in 2025. By 2030, however, the ACT reg would drive that down to about 1.09 MMTCO₂ a year, compared with a “business as usual” projection of an increase to 1.16 MMTCO₂/year.
To put this in perspective, the state’s 2019 inventory of GHG emissions (the most recent inventory) identified emissions of 4.29 MMTCO₂ a year from the transportation sector (39.7 percent of all Rhode Island emissions). These rules would lower that number to 2.92 MMTCO₂ a year by 2030; a 32 percent decrease in this sector.
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