Greenhouse Ruling Could Raise Costs

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

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

The Supreme Court’s ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency must reconsider its position to leave “greenhouse gas” emissions from motor vehicles unregulated could lead to increased costs for trucking companies, according to several industry representatives.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision released April 2, said EPA failed to properly execute the Clean Air Act in 2003 when it didn’t order cuts in carbon emissions from new motor vehicles at the request of a number of states, including California and Massachusetts.
Several states have sued EPA, which argued the states did not have the legal standing to sue the agency because they can’t show how they’d benefit from such a regulation.
“EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.
Joe Suchecki, spokesman for the Engine Manufacturers Association, said, “We expect that . . . [EPA officials are] going to evaluate whether there’s a need for regulation, and that certainly could include heavy-duty trucks.”
If there is a new regulation, trucking officials said, there will also be added costs to the industry.
“Any regulation of greenhouse gases will come at an economic cost, whether to industry or consumers,” said Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations.
“At a minimum, it requires EPA to reopen the issue and reconsider it,” Bob Clarke, president of the Truck Manufacturers Association, told Transport Topics. “We can all anticipate that they will issue a notice for comment, or maybe hold a hearing.”
“Anytime you have to add any piece of hardware you didn’t have before, you add cost,” Clarke said.
Even in the absence of a regulation, Clarke said, “carriers are doing all they can to buy equipment that’s now available.”
Kedzie cited industry participation in EPA’s SmartWay program as a way fleets were reducing greenhouse emissions. “The basic premise . . . is simple: Fuel not burned results in emissions not had,” he said. “The trucking industry continues to carefully monitor with interest how EPA will address the regulation of greenhouse gases as the issue was remanded back to the agency.”
Senate leaders and environmental groups praised the Supreme Court’s decision and called on the EPA to act with its new authority.
“The court did all it can, but if we’re really going to fix climate change, Congress has to pass a cap on global warming pollution, and soon,” Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp said in a statement.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the decision “puts the wind at our backs. It takes away the excuse the administration has been using for not taking action to deal with global warming pollution.”
Boxer said she would hold hearings to press EPA officials on how they intend to implement the court’s ruling.
Even if EPA chooses to regulate greenhouse gases, it could be some time before those rules were published.
EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood told The Associated Press the agency was studying the court’s ruling. She also defended EPA’s package of voluntary greenhouse-gas reduction programs.
“Those national and international voluntary programs are helping achieve reductions now, while saving millions of dollars as well as providing clean, affordable energy,” she said.
“Considering the often glacial pace of rulemaking at EPA, and the Bush administration’s long-professed opposition to mandatory carbon limits, any new regulation coming out of EPA is likely to be years in the making unless the administration moves quickly to establish a weak regulation favorable to the biggest polluters,” said David Bookbinder, director of climate litigation for the Sierra Club. “The next administration will probably be largely responsible for implementing the court’s decision.”
Despite that, Clarke said, there is an opportunity in adopting so-called “green” technologies.
“We collectively have an opportunity here to cast ourselves as heroes . . . by embracing this stuff,” Clarke said.
UPS Inc. spokeswoman Heather Robinson said that company, which ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics 100 list of the top U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers, is already trying to reduce greenhouse emissions by using a number of cleaner-burning vehicles.
“We have the largest alternative-fuel-vehicle fleet in the U.S,” Robinson said, adding that the carrier’s alternative-fuel fleet totaled roughly 1,500 vehicles encompassing a number of different technologies.

She said they included about a dozen liquefied-natural-gas heavy-duty Class 8 trucks on the West Coast and a variety of hybrids and compressed-natural-gas trucks for city delivery services.
In looking at alternative fuel vehicles, Robinson said, there needs to be a balance. She noted that UPS was looking at adding hybrids to its fleet that cost “roughly twice that of a normal truck, but get a 40% increase in fuel economy.”
“There’s very much finding the balance between what your environmental benefits are versus what your fuel and economic benefits are,” she said.



 

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