Any way you analyze the situation, an epic conflict is brewing between the Trump administration and California. The president’s executive order for a less-restrictive Environmental Protection Agency (let’s call it EPA Lite) puts the White House at serious odds with the passionately unyielding California Air Resources Board.
Let’s go back to Nov. 10, 2016, when the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lobbied the newly elected president to roll back emission mandates, asking him to lead “efforts with EPA, NHTSA, CARB and automakers on finding a pathway forward. In a letter to the White House, the alliance recommended that Trump support “administrative and legislative reforms.”
The alliance of manufacturers stressed that reform is imperative, writing that “we live at a moment where technology and change are swamping the regulatory capacity to manage our emerging reality.”
In mid-March, Trump met with automakers in Detroit and in his address, he announced he would “work on the CAFÉ standards” so cars “can be made in America again.” A week later, the White House announced executive orders and a presidential memorandum that rescinds the climate change guidance of the Obama administration.
Trump is indicating he wants to cut the EPA back to the basic core mission. Notable, he’ll be reviewing the challenging fuel efficiency standards set by his predecessor.
According to a senior administration official, the president thinks “the best way to protect the environment” is to have a strong economy and the president is “not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the U.S. economy at risk.”
According to Fuel Marketer News, executives at the American Petroleum Institute see it as an important step forward and one that will restore “common sense regulations that are needed to advance the U.S. energy renaissance.”
We aren’t sure how heavy-duty truck manufacturers feel but we can guess how OOIDA may react if the EPA/NHTSA noose were loosened. Remember that first-ever standards were finalized last August to reduce GHG and improve fuel efficiency of medium and heavy-duty vehicles for model year 2018 and beyond? OOIDA believes that rule will create higher costs, add complexity to truck systems and open the door for forcing new and unproven technologies. The real beef is for small-business truckers who need to be nimble to survive, which means having an adaptable operation. Lack of options and strict choices make it hard for small companies and rules that are too extreme offer poor incentives for the little guy.
Meanwhile, the environmental battlers on our nation’s West Coast are livid with the executive order that clashes with their long crusade for clean air. In California, the woman who describes herself on Twitter as Queen of Green is aghast. Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, and the state’s governor Jerry Brown, swear they will not back off the state’s strict emission rules. For more than four decades, California has operated under an EPA waiver that allows the state to set tougher rules than the fed – that waiver secured by then-Gov. Reagan.
So, we end the week with a lot of guesswork and saber-rattling. Trump’s intentions regarding heavy truck rules? Still an unknown.
And no word yet if California is going to build a wall.
As an aside, on April 19, OOIDA’s attorneys will be in California with oral arguments in a case against the California Air Resources Board. OOIDA is represented by The Cullen Law Firm, the Association’s litigation counsel in Washington, D.C. The case was originally filed in a California district court in December 2013 and ended up in the Ninth Circuit Court. So far, the merits of the case have not been heard by any court. Other lawsuits have been filed, but denied on procedural or technical grounds. The real reason truckers have a big problem with CARB’s costly rules has never been argued – I repeat – never been argued.
With the arrival of EPA Lite and with CARB digging in, I’m not even going to venture a guess on what this means to OOIDA’s case but we’re confident that it will prevail on its own merit.
Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief, brings more than 33 years of front-line journalism and publishing know-how to Land Line. She has covered the trucking industry since 1987. In 2013, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America.