Governor Roy Cooper today issued Executive Order No. 271 directing swift action to accelerate the state’s transition to a clean energy economy that creates good jobs and opportunities for all North Carolinians while protecting public health and the environment.
The Order positions North Carolina to benefit from the global market transition to zero-emission vans, buses and trucks by ensuring that new vehicle technologies will be available to businesses across the state and directing state agencies to pursue strategies and investments that will support the affordable, equitable and reliable growth of the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) market. By reducing pollution from dirty vehicles that harm all North Carolinians and especially low-income communities and communities of color, the Order will encourage economic development and job growth across the state, maximize consumer choice for small businesses and advance the state’s climate and environmental justice objectives.
“North Carolina has demonstrated that by leading the transition to clean energy we can grow our economy and create good paying jobs while reducing local pollution and confronting the climate crisis,” said Governor Cooper. “North Carolina is already a national hub for truck and bus manufacturing and supply chain development, and we should not miss the opportunity to lead the market-driven transition already underway to cleaner and increasingly cheaper zero-emission technologies that benefit our economy and our communities.”
Auto manufacturers are increasingly committing to the production of ZEVs and a growing number of businesses in the state are transitioning to ZEVs to save money, remain economically competitive and meet sustainability goals. Executive Order 271 directs the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to work with stakeholders to propose to the Environmental Management Commission an Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) program that would ensure zero-emission trucks and buses are available for purchase in the state. ACT would require manufacturers to sell an increasing percentage of ZEVs over time while providing flexibility, through credits, trading and other features, as segments of the market grow at different speeds. The sales targets would also drive investment in other zero-emission technologies including charging and fueling infrastructure, while bolstering North Carolina’s competitiveness in seeking billions of dollars in federal funding for clean energy development.
“Using the Clean Air Act to support the market transition to clean transportation will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide health benefits to communities across our state,” said DEQ Secretary Elizabeth S. Biser.
Executive Order 271 also outlines a comprehensive strategy for the State to support automakers, fleet owners, and other partners to grow the MHD (Medium- and Heavy-Duty) ZEV market through investment in charging infrastructure, purchase incentives, workforce development, demonstration projects, technical assistance, and other strategies identified through development of the North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan and supported by unprecedented federal funding through Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The Order also directs the development of a North Carolina ZEV Infrastructure Needs Assessment to identify charging and fueling needs to ensure an affordable, equitable and reliable infrastructure network to support the Advanced Clean Trucks program and the ZEV targets established in Executive Order No. 246.
“Today’s action moves North Carolina closer to a clean transportation economy that will benefit communities across the state,” said state Transportation Secretary J. Eric Boyette. “Increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance environmental justice and create good-paying jobs tied to clean transportation.”
The State of North Carolina will continue to lead by example in transitioning to clean energy and E.O. 271 expands Cabinet agency efforts to transition the state motor fleet to ZEVs, including the buses and trucks covered by the ACT program. Under the Order, DEQ will also enhance public-private partnerships by expanding the Environmental Stewardship Initiative to support and recognize companies and facilities that increase the share of ZEVs in their van, bus and truck fleets.
Air pollution from buses and trucks predominately powered by diesel engines worsens asthma and other cardio-respiratory illnesses, especially in children and older adults, can trigger heart attacks and strokes, and lead to other negative health impacts. While this pollution harms all North Carolinians it disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color that are often located near trucking corridors, ports, fleet garages, warehouses, and other distribution hubs. E.O. 271 provides clear direction for Cabinet agencies to prioritize strategies that will further environmental justice and health equity by improving health outcomes for communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution and increasing affordable access to clean transportation options.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will also take steps to increase understanding of the disproportionate health impacts of bus and truck emissions on underserved communities and people of color, including by publishing a commentary on the environmental justice impacts of transportation-related air pollutants, incorporating the best available air quality and environmental justice metrics into the DHHS Environmental Health Data Dashboard, and notifying community stakeholders about relevant funding opportunities to address the health impacts of transportation-related emissions.
“The environment where we live, work and play affects our health,” said DHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Reducing air pollution from trucks and buses is a smart upstream investment to help prevent cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and other illnesses.”
Over the last six months, stakeholders including businesses, public health experts, environmental and social justice organizations, local governments and other stakeholders advocated for the adoption of the strong policies to support the growth of the zero-emission truck and bus market in North Carolina.
“The e-mobility economy is here and ABB is providing the charging solutions that enable truck electrification here in North Carolina and across the country,” said Chris Nordh Senior Vice President, ABB E-mobility Fleet and Transit. “Electrifying trucks and fleets will create jobs, save truck owners and operators money, and mitigate climate change – all things that benefit North Carolinians.”
“Siemens has a strong history in North Carolina, with more than 3,000 employees working across the state and our Electrification and Automation manufacturing hub in Wendell. More and more, companies are beginning to make the shift to electric fleets and want policies put in place that will make this transition easier. At Siemens, we have a goal to electrify our 10,000 vehicle fleet and achieve our net zero vision by 2030,” said John DeBoer, head of Siemens eMobility North America. “The ACT rule is one critical step toward this greater electrification journey, as it will expand the market and help get a more diverse array of electric vehicles on our nation’s roads. By adopting the ACT rule, states like North Carolina can establish themselves and the companies that do businesses on their roads as clean transportation leaders—while also bringing health and equitable economic benefits to their communities.”
"Breathing polluted air has enormous health consequences, and especially harms older people and children; even prenatal exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of asthma. Trucks are one of the biggest contributors to pollution in North Carolina, so reducing pollution from these vehicles will lead to better health for our population, with lower rates of adverse birth outcomes, asthma exacerbations, lung cancer, and heart disease,” Stephanie Johannes, Founder of NC Clinicians for Climate Action said. “Studies show that people of color - at all income levels - are more exposed to the air pollution from medium and heavy-duty trucks. Clean trucking regulations are critical to addressing some of the health disparities we see in our clinics, and we are grateful to Governor Cooper for setting us on a path to healthier air for all North Carolinians."
“As co-founders of the West End Revitalization Association – WERA, Mebane, NC, Omega and Brenda Wilson are honored to support Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 271. These zero emissions directives will be invaluable in addressing environmental justice air pollution issues, asthma, and respiratory health disparities in Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other low-wealth communities adversely impacted by diesel emissions,” Omega and Brenda Wilson, Cofounders of West End Revitalization Association said. “Our son Ayo Wilson, Director of WERA’s Clean Energy & Climate Justice Initiative, continues to mail and email hundreds of letters to local, county, and state officials encouraging them to include EV charging sites and solar installations in mega growth planning and zoning of distribution and industrial centers, apartment complexes, malls, schools, and more. WERA looks forward to a continuing partnership with Gov. Cooper’s interagency leaders to make Executive Order 271’s directives measurable at ground-level where taxpayers and voters live and work.”
The Executive Order builds on the Governor’s previous actions to grow the clean energy economy and a clean transportation future. Earlier this month, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality awarded more than $30 million from the Volkswagen Settlement Program to fund 161 new school buses across the state, with the majority of funding going toward new all-electric school buses. In January 2022, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 246 which established new emissions reduction and zero-emission vehicle goals and directed the state to identify pathways to achieve those goals in a manner centers environmental justice and economic opportunity including by developing the North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan.
In 2020, the Governor joined the Multi-State Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding to reduce pollution and grow the MHD ZEV market by striving to achieve sales shares of 30% by 2030 and 100% no later than 2050.
The NC Department of Administration has seven Ford E-Transit cargo vans and six charging stations that are used to transport mail between state government agencies. Together, the vans travel 97,000 miles annually, resulting in fuel cost savings of more than $14,000 dollars per year. Replacing fuel-operated vehicles with electric vans will save approximately 43 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent on an annual basis.
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