Big Rig Drivers Smoked in Quest to Loosen State Emission Standards

Trucking.jpg
But don't Keep On Emittin' ...
In a case involving a convoy of lawyers, federal judges ruled against a pair of truckers' organizations claiming the state of California's emissions standards were rigged. 

Readers may be surprised to learn that the federal Clean Air Act gives California -- and only California -- the right to set emission standards from "in-use, non-road engines." Then the other 49 states can adopt standards identical to California's, or none whatsoever. Apparently, our mothers were right here in the Golden State: We are special.

We also don't like sniffing emissions from in-use, non-road engines. These include devices such as trucks' refrigeration units -- and, in 2004, the state put in place the current standards on such engines, and the Environmental Protection Agency gave its blessing. The American Trucking Associations and Truckload Carriers Association filed suit, claiming the state overstepped its authority and the EPA's approval was an error. But, last week, a panel of judges from the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals sided with the Golden State.

While California calls the shots in this emissions question, the truckers felt the EPA ignored two of the big questions: Does California specifically need this rule to address "compelling and extraordinary" conditions? And do the Golden State's rules prohibit or price out other states from "adopting and enforcing" the standards?



While the truckers felt the EPA erred in determining California "needed" these standards, the judges -- refraining the urge to write "Have you been to L.A. County lately? -- ruled the federal regulators were within their rights.

The cost argument was more complicated. The truckers claimed so many trucks go through California that the emission standard became a de-facto national requirement. The judges' comeback: Tough shit.

ATA's argument on this point is weak. The California rule does not require any other state to adopt California's approach, and it does "not apply anywhere but in California, and only to vehicles that have entered California..." If ATA's members operate trucks in California, they must comply while operating in California. If they do not operate in California, they need not comply. We find nothing about this approach to be inconsistent with the federal statutory scheme.
As for the truckers' last point -- the "we ain't all got your California money" argument -- the federal judges took out their calculators and disagreed. Replacing the refrigeration engines in question will cost $2,000 to $5,000 a pop and since the rule is being phased in, expenditures won't all have to be made at once.

So, it's a sad day at the truck stop. But, hopefully, everyone can now breathe easier.

H/T   |   Courthouse News


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