The California Air Resources Board has thrown open the door on comments to its proposed Advanced Clean Fleet (ACF) rule, which sees a phaseout of diesel-powered trucks in the state, even as CARB still does not have the waiver it needs to make it a reality.
That proposal includes an acceleration of the target for requiring zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the state’s trucking sector to 2036. That date had been 2040.
The comment portal is here. Comments can be submitted until April 7.
The move up to 2036 appears to be the most consequential change that CARB has introduced in its ACF rule. The ACF goes hand in hand with the state’s Clean Trucks rule, which lays out mandates for manufacturers. The ACF is directed at users.
Under the switch to a 2036 deadline, the new rule says that starting with that model year, “all vehicles produced by manufacturers (subject to the rule) that are produced and delivered for sale to the ultimate purchaser in California must be ZEVs.”
But even as the ACF heads toward implementation at the end of the year, that waiver from the federal Environmental Protection Agency still is required. And while the state’s trucking sector may be hoping that it won’t be granted, a recent news story suggested the waiver is likely.
California is unique in that the original Clean Air Act allows the Golden State to receive a waiver from federal law that says a state can’t enact its own emission standards. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, the Biden administration is likely to grant waivers to California.
In an article published March 20, the Post cited three people who told it that the waiver approval was likely.
“The Environmental Protection Agency intends to grant California ‘waivers’ to enforce environmental rules that are significantly tougher than federal requirements and that state regulators have already approved, said these individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public,” according to the Post.
The Post also quoted an agency spokesman as saying that it would issue its decision on the requested waivers “as expeditiously as possible.”
The waivers do not deal solely with the ACF. They also would cover new California standards on nitrous oxide emissions as well as rules regarding warranties.
The release of that Washington Post article immediately brought a prepared statement from the American Trucking Associations, which said it had “grave concerns” about what was in the Post story.
“Our industry hopes these reports aren’t true,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in the statement. “We have worked tirelessly with EPA on aggressive, achievable timelines for emissions reductions over decades.”
Spear added that a truck in 1988 would have emissions equal to 60 trucks today.
What appears to be particularly concerning to the ATA and others in the trucking industry is that several other states have agreed to follow whatever California does. According to the Post story, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont all have made that commitment.
There has long been concern among the nation’s vehicle manufacturers of what they have referred to as the “two-car” problem, in that tighter regulations in California mean that in order to meet those standards but not assume those costs in the rest of the country, they need to build what amounts to two cars, one for California and another for the rest of the 49 states. Vehicle manufacturers have at times agreed with California on tighter emission rules, such as the four-company group that reached a deal in 2019 on tighter auto emissions.
With California and seven other states committed to following the emission rules set in Sacramento, it means that the two-car problem becomes even more pronounced and raises the prospect that the California Clean Fleet rules effectively become national rules.
Under the waiver process, the burden is on the EPA to show why it would not grant a waiver and would need to show that California’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” in finding that its proposed standards are at least as “protective” of public health as federal standards; that the new rules aren’t needed “to met compelling and extraordinary conditions”; or that its standards are not “consistent with” the Clean Air Act.
Britt Carmon, a transportation analyst in the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA grant of a waiver is likely.
“The waiver granting process is pretty straightforward,” Carmon said in an email to FreightWaves. “As long as California can provide evidence showing that the standards they are setting are not arbitrarily set, that there are compelling and extraordinary reasons for setting this and that it is consistent with what Congress authorized in … the Clean Air Act, then the agency has to grant the waiver.”
But there is one issue: CARB has not yet asked for a waiver.
Chris Shimoda, the senior vice president for government affairs at the California Trucking Association, said it is the CTA’s belief that CARB needs to ask for a waiver, noting that there have been times in the past when the EPA simply handed down a waiver without a request.
But Shimoda conceded that a waiver is likely to be granted, whether it comes after a CARB request or if it’s done unilaterally. “The track record on California waivers is that every single one is granted,” he said, citing just one denial that was later reversed.
Beyond the advancement of the 2040 deadline by four years, the amended rule’s primary variation from the initial proposal from October 2022 provides leeway for drayage trucks if it can be shown that recharging infrastructure for ZEV vehicles can’t be installed in time to meet the various mandates in the rule.
There also is more leeway granted under the revised rule regarding delays in ZEV deliveries for new trucks that have been ordered or damaged.
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