The Future Of California’s Emissions Standards

April 2017 Feature Trevor Mason

Some potentially huge changes to the emissions standards in California might be coming our way. Why is this such a big deal? Well, aside from California being one of the most populous states, it has the strictest emissions standards of all 50 states. It’s why you see some aftermarket products stamped with a specific “California-approved” label sometimes. To that end, there are many states that follow California’s lead when it comes to vehicle pollution limits. 

So what’s the big shake-up? Delta Construction Co., an asphalt paving business based in Sacramento, is filing a lawsuit that aims to save businesses that have been unfairly targeted by the EPA’s restrictions. Essentially, the enforcement of EPA standards in California—one in particular is called the “in-use, off-road diesel rule”—have become so convoluted that Delta owner Skip Brown (pictured above) can’t use the existing diesel vehicles he owns to run his business, but can’t afford to replace them. Here’s the relevant passage: 

In-use means the rule applies to equipment currently being operated, not just future purchases. The new rule covered Brown’s chip spreader, a piece of equipment used to build roads in the hinterland. It also affects his pneumatic compactors and a tractor. Beginning next year he will have to retrofit them with diesel particle filters, buy new, or sell some of his equipment.

Brown was a regular at the meetings – years of meetings – that preceded the imposition of this rule. He explained to state officials how it would be impossible to pass on the cost of new equipment to his customers by raising his bids to do jobs. He just wouldn’t win bids.

He explained the chain reaction of being forced to sell equipment. Already, he said, because of earlier diesel truck rules imposed by California, he’s had to sell six vehicles at what amounted to predatory auctions. Buyers know the vehicles can’t be used in the state. With fewer assets, the bonding company and the bank downgraded Delta’s worth. The next thing Brown knew, his line of credit was reduced.

“The entire asset base that I have built through 50 years of being in this business has been destroyed and that is causing me to have to close the doors,” he said. 

Brown has teamed up with Ted Hadzi-Antich, a senior attorney at the Center for the American Future, which is part of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. In their lawsuit, which also includes the Western Trucking Association, the Loggers Association of California Inc., and Dalton Trucking as plaintiffs, they’re arguing that the EPA has, in essence, interpreted the Clean Air Act incorrectly. It seeks to limit California’s independent pollution rules, which, since California is allowed to enforce stricter regulations than the federal government, would in turn lessen its influence on other states’ emissions standards. 

The lawsuit is set to appear before the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals next month. We’ll see then how this whole mess turns out.



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