Defending California’s Truck Emission Standards in the Courtroom: The Legal Frontier

July 5, 2023
2 mins read
  • The EDF, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other groups come together to support California’s Clean Truck Waiver.
  • The waiver allows California to set its own standards for emissions for medium and heavy vehicles.
  • This waiver is very conducive to the environment, overall health, and well-being of the citizens.
  • However, this waiver is being challenged by a group representing the interests of the trucking and oil industries and a coalition led by Iowa.
  • The motion for Intervention has been filed.

The Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other groups have put forth a motion of “intervention” for a lawsuit regarding the clean truck standards in California. The EDF, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club filed the motion with the US Court of Appeals on June 29, 2023.

The intervention defends the powers given to California under the Clean Air Act to set truck emissions standards that are more substantial than those of the federal government.

The issue begins when the US Environmental Protection Agency decides to grant a waiver of preemption to the State of California. This allows the State to move forward with the pollution standards for new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles like freight trucks and buses. The Clean Air Act allows the State of California to authorize requests for such waivers for more than 50 years.

With the new waiver, the State of California is permitted to follow its Advanced Clean Trucks Rule, which, in turn, speeds up the usage of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks. It is estimated by the California Air Resources Board that the Advanced Clean Trucks Rule will reduce climate pollution by three metric tons each year by 2040. It is also estimated that there will be an impact on smog-forming NOx pollution and potentially deadly particulate matter pollution. Seven other states have successfully adopted this: Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

As per EDF Clean Transportation Attorney Andy Sue, heavy-duty vehicles make up about one-tenth of the traffic on American roads but are responsible for more than a quarter of the climate pollution from the transportation sector and half of the health-harming pollution. Therefore, California’s Advanced Clean Truck Rule can save up to 900 lives by 2040 and eliminate the climate pollution generated by four million cars. In turn, protecting public health and the climate will aid in creating American Jobs.

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Scott Hochberg, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, stated, “California and other states have well-established rights to set their own rigorous truck standards, and dangerous efforts to overturn them will fail. Maintaining California’s lifesaving leadership in setting strong pollution standards is crucial for protecting public health and the climate and supporting a rapid, just transition to zero-emission trucks.”

A group representing trucking and oil industry interests and a coalition of states led by Iowa have filed a lawsuit to overturn the EPA’s decision to grant the waiver. However, this is not being challenged by the Vehicle and engine manufacturers.

The States defending the waiver are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Cities of Los Angeles and New York.

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