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Report finds truck manufacturers are privately lobbying to weaken U.S. climate policy

: [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this audio story, we incorrectly identified the number of states that have adopted the most stringent regulations to build and sell zero-emissions medium and heavy-duty trucks. The correct number is seven, not six, as of December 7, 2022. An updated version of this audio story also clarifies that of these states, California has an additional goal that all trucks will be zero-emissions by 2045.]


A new report finds that truck manufacturers privately lobby to weaken U.S. climate policy while promoting zero-emissions vehicles. Laura Klivans from member station KQED reports.

LAURA KLIVANS, BYLINE: Truck-makers are opposing policies that reduce diesel emissions and require zero-emissions truck sales. These policies affect truck owner and operator Carlos Morales in Richmond, Calif.

CARLOS MORALES: (Speaking Spanish).

KLIVANS: Morales says his current truck may be his last because purchasing an electric one will be too expensive. The laws in California are too stringent to keep up with, he says. A new report finds that most truck-makers agree. London-based think tank InfluenceMap uncovered that manufacturers publicly promote zero-emissions fleets while privately trying to delay federal and state laws to get there. Kalina Dmitriew wrote the report based on public records. She says they knew the lobbying was taking place.

KALINA DMITRIEW: It's the sheer scale and the extent of the lobbying that we found really surprising. It really appears to be a strategic and coordinated effort across multiple U.S. states.

KLIVANS: Dmitriew says companies wrote private letters and emails to policymakers, pushing back on regulation that would curb emissions and reduce air pollution. The report says an industry group spearheaded efforts along with Volvo, Daimler Truck, Volkswagen and PACCAR. It did not find opposition from Ford Motor and General Motors.

PATRICIO PORTILLO: They are viewed as valued stakeholders.

KLIVANS: Patricio Portillo is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

PORTILLO: They're the ones that are building these vehicles, and a lot of trust and weight is given to their word. This shows that they can't be trusted.

KLIVANS: In an email, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, Jan Mandel, said his group is committed to zero emissions. He wrote that they're investing billions of dollars to get there. Truck manufacturers need to do two things - reduce emissions of diesel vehicles per federal policy and produce zero-emissions trucks quickly, as is required by six states, including California.

BOB RAMORINO: They've got to meet the challenge. They've got to remain profitable.

KLIVANS: Bob Ramorino runs Roadstar Trucking in Hayward, Calif. He wants to bring electric trucks into his small fleet. He gets why truck manufacturers may benefit if regulators loosen diesel requirements.

RAMORINO: If they can show how this is going to accelerate rolling in the newer technology.

KLIVANS: States with the most ambitious rules require all new truck sales to be zero emissions by 2045.

For NPR News, I'm Laura Klivans in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.