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Court Hands Victory to Trucking Industry Tied to Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards

If you are in the heavy duty trucking industry, you won a federal appeals court case this week when it put a stop to a rule that sets emissions standards tied to their trailers. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that the industry has met its obligations while the justices had agreed to “stay” the emissions rule.

It’s all related to a 2016 regulation that beefed up fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for truckers. But in this case, the US Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama said that the trailers hauled by those truckers are effecting both of those standards and had wanted the tougher rules to be in place on January 1, 2018.

The greenhouse gas rules for freight remains in effect, although the court will hear arguments as to its legality next year.

According to the Obama administration — referenced in The Hill — the regulation had been expected to cut 1.1 billion metric tons of CO2 and make trucks 25% more efficient. Its supporters say that opposition to this plan is ill-considered given that anything that affects performance effects the environment. 

But the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association had petitioned the court to stop at least the trailer portion of the rule, saying that they don’t produce emissions at all; Obama’s EPA said that they put a drag on engines and effect performance. 

“The [Clean Air] Act only permits regulation of ‘new motor vehicles’ and ‘new motor vehicle engines.’ And the Act expressly defines the term ‘new motor vehicles’ to mean ‘self-propelled’ vehicles,” the trucking group’s petition said.  “Trailers are not self-propelled. They emit nothing, and they lack engines or any other means of propulsion. They can move only when pulled by a tractor or another heavy-duty truck.”

The appeal’s court will ultimately decide all aspects fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards tied to trucks. The Trump administration is sympathetic to the truckers and its EPA said in may that would reconsider the steps that the Obama had taken as it relates to the trailer portion. 

The EPA standards were based on industry best practices demonstrated in EPA’s collaborative SmartWay Program , according to the Environmental Defense Fund. But in the latter stages of the litigation, EPA bowed out, making it “highly  unusual,” the advocacy group said.

“We are disappointed that the court allowed a delay of these important climate and public health safeguards that save truckers and families hard earned money,” said EDF General Counsel Vickie Patton. “Importantly, the EPA’s vital limits on climate pollution from freight truck engines, a major and rapidly growing source of pollution, remain in full force and effect.”

EPA and the Department of Transportation adopted the Clean Truck Standards in August 2016 after taking public comment and engaging businesses, EDF said, noting that the billions in fuel costs the ruling would save while also avoiding heat-trapping emissions.

Specifically, the standards will reduce carbon pollution by more than one billion metric tons while also saving the trucking industry an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027, EDF said, providing $400 in annual household savings for the average American family by 2035. It also said the regulation would cut petroleum consumption by two billion barrels over the lifetime of our heavy-duty trucks.

While it expressing its disappointment at the legal decision and saying that the climate is at stake, EDF said it would vigorously oppose any attempts by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to weaken the standards further. Pruitt has announced that EPA will reconsider the freight trailer standards through a notice and comment rulemaking process. 

“We intend to develop and issue a Federal Register notice of proposed rule-making on this matter, consistent with the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” Pruitt had said earlier, according to Trucks.com. 

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