Feb. 08–A Fresno County judge was right to rule that a state regulator violated the California Environmental Quality Act by allowing small trucking companies to delay compliance with diesel air-quality regulations, an appellate court said.
Fresno attorney Timothy Jones, who represented John R. Lawson Rock & Oil Inc., a Fresno-based plaintiff in a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board, called the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s 43-page ruling a victory for clean air.
That’s because experts say diesel exhaust contains harmful gases and more than 40 other known cancer-causing compounds. In 1998, California identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death and other health problems.
The lawsuit against the Air Resources Board involved the on-road truck rule, approved in 2008, that required owners of older heavy-duty trucks and buses to install particulate pollution filters starting in 2011. Beginning in 2013, owners must replace older engines with 2010 or newer models.
Lawson, who has a large trucking firm in Fresno, said the 2008 rule forced him to spend about $8.5 million to purchase a new fleet of 125 clean-burning diesel trucks. Because his old trucks were out of compliance, he said, he was forced to sell them at a cut-rate price.
Lawson and the California Trucking Association sued the state agency in 2014 when it amended its rules to give small trucking operations more time to comply with new regulations designed to clean up diesel emissions.
In the lawsuit, Lawson and the trucking association contended the California Air Resources Board did not follow the proper procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act and the California Environmental Quality Act in adopting the amendment. The association also alleged its members’ economic interests were harmed by being undercut competitively by diesel fleets that took advantage of the flexibility provisions.
For its part, the air resource board argued that it made the provisions because the costs of complying with emissions regulations have a much higher impact on very small trucking companies — those with 3 or fewer trucks — compared to those with large fleets like Lawson’s.
On Jan. 31, the appeals court ruled against the air resource board’s appeal and affirmed Judge Mark Snauffer’s 2016 ruling in Fresno County Superior Court, saying the board had overstepped its authority in allowing small fleets to delay compliance. The appellate court also ruled that the air board failed to consider the economic and environmental impacts that would happen by delaying compliance to its regulations.
Stanley Young, communications director for the air resources board, said Thursday that the agency remains committed to its mission “to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy.”
He said CARB enacted the 2014 amendment to balance the needs for clean air while trying to help small trucking companies, farmers and rural operators who don’t use their diesel trucks as often as big trucking firms. “In terms of compliance, we will have to take the individual cases one at a time, but by and large, most of the measures for flexibility have already come and gone,” Young said. The overall impact of the amendment “was minimal in terms of its impacts on emissions,” he said.
Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts
(c)2018 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)
Visit The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.) at www.fresnobee.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.