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September 26, 2017 10:30 AM, EDT

EPA, TTMA Duel in Court Filings Over GHG Phase 2 Trailer Rules

C.R. England trailer aerodynamics C.R. England

In dueling court filings, Environmental Protection Agency lawyers said they want to postpone the start of a federal appeals court case on the trailer section of the Phase 2 greenhouse gas rule while trailer makers are eager to see the new rule scrapped.

In filings with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sept. 18, EPA’s Justice department lawyers asked for the case to continue in abeyance indefinitely. The Clerk of Court placed the case in that status in May.

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, the other major party, responded with “conditional opposition,” saying the lawsuit should not be allowed to remain in limbo while the countdown toward the trailer section’s Jan. 1 starting date is still active.

Phase 1 on GHG emissions began in 2014 and was tightened on Jan. 1. Trailer rules are new for Phase 2, as the earlier rule dealt only with trucks and their engines.

Phase 2 for trailers is scheduled to roll out in four stages: 2018, 2021, 2024 and 2027. The 2018 portion mandates aerodynamic fairings on large dry and refrigerated vans.

The rule also requires low-rolling-resistance tires and automatic tire-inflation or tire-monitoring systems for all trailers.

But in August, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency would begin working on a new rule to replace or modify the trailer and glider sections of Phase 2, which was made final in October 2016, during the final months of the Obama administration.

Jeffrey Wood, an acting assistant U.S. attorney general, said on behalf of EPA that it is possible the agency’s “administrative proceedings could obviate the need for judicial resolution of some or all of the issues raised by trailer petitioner.”

Therefore, Wood said, the case with the TTMA should be put on the shelf “pending completion of administrative proceedings regarding the challenged rule, with reports on the status of those proceedings due [to the court] every 90 days.”

Doing so, he said, “would preserve the resources of the parties and the court.”

Elisabeth Theodore, counsel for the association, said the trailer group “appreciates” that EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “have agreed to reconsider the provisions.”

EPA and NHTSA are co-authors of Phase 2.

Appreciation notwithstanding, Theodore said trailer makers “face imminent compliance deadlines given that the final rule’s greenhouse gas emissions provisions will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.”

If EPA gets to push back the start of judicial consideration, TTMA wants to push back the start of Phase 2 enforcement on trailers.

The association has asked EPA to stay its enforcement of trailer mandates, and the group said it will soon ask the court to do that if EPA will not.

“TTMA’s members will explain in declarations in support of TTMA’s forthcoming stay motion [that] they must take steps to comply with the Jan. 1, 2018, deadline now,” the group’s filing said.

As of Sept. 25, the court had not responded to the parties.