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Manufacturers sue CARB over truck emissions rule lead time

June 1, 2022
California's new heavy-duty engine regulation fails to provide manufacturers with legally-required minimum four years' notice to meet clean air standards, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association argues.

Heavy-duty equipment manufacturers need time to develop new technologies to meet increasingly strict emissions limits, and the federal Clean Air Act gives them four years. Recent goals set by the California Air Resource Board (CARB), however, cut that lead time by half, so the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) on May 27 filed a lawsuit to hold the state to federal law.

The lawsuit comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing its own new heavy-duty truck and engine standards. Additionally, 17 state attorneys general earlier this month sued EPA over California’s Clean Air Act waiver allowing the state to set vehicle emissions limits that are more strict than federal regulations.

“We're not challenging California's separate independent authority; we're not challenging any substance of the CARB rule—we’re simply defending our right to have lead time that is necessary,” EMA President Jed R. Mandel told FleetOwner. “It's a long lifecycle to develop the new technology: to integrate with the engine, the fuel system, the exhaust system. You have to prove out the technology; you have to make your sure your customers are comfortable buying that technology. And we've got supply chain issues going on right now.

“If you rush a product to market in less than the needed lead time, it may not be the quality product that our customers need and demand. And if they don't feel it's ready, they simply won't buy it.”

On Dec. 22, 2021, CARB adopted the Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation, a package of stringent emission standards, test procedures, and other emission-related requirements applicable to new heavy-duty on-highway engines and vehicles sold in California. The Omnibus Regulation requires heavy-duty engine and vehicle manufacturers to comply with the new standards on Jan. 1, 2024, providing manufacturers ‘only’ two years of lead time, according to the EMA summary.

In recognition of California’s unique air quality issues, the federal Clean Air Act allows California to establish its own unique standards and not be subject to the act’s preemption provisions, provided California meets certain requirements—including providing heavy-duty on-highway engine and vehicle manufacturers four full model years of lead time.  

“We urge the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to reaffirm the minimum four-year lead time requirement,” Mandel added in a statement. “We hope this matter will be resolved quickly so that manufacturers have the lead time and regulatory certainty needed to develop and build the products our customers—and our economy—depend on.” 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization of environmental activists, called the EMA lawsuit “a direct attack on our communities, lungs, and the environment.”

In a CleanTechnica post, NRDC characterized the suit as “a new low” for EMA and pointed to the “hypocrisy” of member companies who publicly profess a commitment to a sustainable future while routinely delaying new clean air standards.

To read the EMA lawsuit filing, click here.  

Background back and forth

Trucking’s sometimes uneasy relationship with California’s regulations-heavy operating environment goes back decades, as the industry has emphasized the importance of 50-state solutions to maintain the flow of interstate commerce. California, meanwhile, pushes out its brand of progressive policies that often are adopted by other states, making for a challenging “patchwork” of laws that can change at a state line.

The Clean Air Act exemption from 2013 gives the Golden State the authority to set its own limits on greenhouse gases. That EPA waiver was withdrawn by the Trump Administration in 2019, however. But, this March, the Biden administration rescinded that decision, including a waiver of preemption for California's ZEV sales mandate and GHG emissions standards.

Similarly, public comment closed May 16 on EPA's proposed new, stronger standards for heavy-duty vehicles and engines starting in model year (MY) 2027. The proposed standards would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and set updated greenhouse gas (GHG) requirements for certain commercial vehicle categories.

The proposals are the first step in EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan—a series of clean-air and climate regulations that the agency will develop over the next three years to reduce pollution from trucks and buses.

However, as reported recently by E&E News, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies contends the draft truck rule is “too weak” to meet even current air quality standards.

“EPA is ratcheting up the number of areas that aren’t meeting health-based air quality standards at the same time they’re proposing a rule that isn’t protective enough for the most important source of that exact pollution,” said Miles Keogh, NACAA executive director, in a Climatewire post (reprinted here by Scientific American).

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