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September 9, 2013 2:00 AM, EDT

California Asks EPA for Enforcement Approval of State’s Truck Greenhouse-Gas Regulation

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Sept. 9 print edition of Transport Topics.

California environmental regulators have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to grant the state permission to begin enforcing provisions of its heavy-duty greenhouse-gas regulation.

The formal waiver request by the California Air Resources Board was made in June but announced by the EPA late last month.

The state cannot enforce the regulation until EPA grants a waiver.

The delay involves CARB’s rule that aerodynamic equipment be installed or retrofitted on model year 2011 and newer trailers, and 2011-2013 model-year sleeper-berth tractors using state highways.

The CARB regulation was adopted in 2008, then amended in 2010 and again in March 2012.

Mike Tunnell, director of environmental research for American Trucking Associations, said the delay has upset some of the state’s larger fleets that already have installed the SmartWay-approved technologies, but smaller fleets have been spared the substantial investment.

CARB said the requirements include the use of trailer side skirts and fairings, as well as tractors with specified aerodynamic technologies and low-rolling-resistance tires.

“Here we are, three years down the road from the time the regulation was supposed to go into effect, but CARB does not have the authority to enforce it until they get the EPA to sign off on it,” Tunnell said. “CARB had indicated they were enforcing the regulation, but they never enforced it and now acknowledge they need EPA approval to enforce it. The reason for the delay is the million-dollar question.”

A CARB spokeswoman confirmed the regulation is not being enforced and that the timing of the waiver request has been “quite normal.”

“We always submit waiver requests after a regulation has been adopted,” spokeswoman Karen Caesar said. “Once the regulation is final, then we submit the waiver to EPA for approval.”

Tunnell said many California truckers assumed the regulation would be enforced long ago and took steps to comply.

“It seems late in the game for CARB to all of a sudden figure out they need to get a waiver,” Tunnell said. “It really comes down to a question of if you’re going to adopt these regulations you should plan to enforce them. This process just sends the wrong message.”

To gain a waiver, the state must convince EPA that the regulation will be at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards.

In supporting documents, CARB said the regulation is projected to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the state by 0.7 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions statewide by 2020, and emissions of oxides of nitrogen by 3.1 and 1 ton per day in 2014 and 2020 respectively.

It’s unknown how long the waiver request will take to be approved.

“This one seems to be moving fairly quickly, but some of them have taken years to get approved,” Tunnell said.

A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 16 at EPA’s offices in Washington, D.C. Written comments must be submitted by Oct. 18, EPA said.

In a statement, ATA said that EPA has virtually never denied California a waiver request, including more recent requests to implement motor vehicle greenhouse-gas standards for other truck classes.

“ATA recognizes that carriers are already in compliance with some of these requirements, and further enforcement delays would not be constructive,” ATA said. “However, this process does raise concerns about the timing of the request and the state’s commitment to enforcing the regulation.”