Calif. group challenging EPA's emissions standards

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 9, 2011, 4:37pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A California-based watchdog group has filed a lwsuit on behalf of small businesses and trade organizations that challenges the Obama administration's greenhouse emissions standards for heavy-duty and medium-duty vehicles.

According to the Pacific Legal Foundation's petition for review, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday, federal officials were legally required to submit the regulations for independent scientific scrutiny, but failed to do so.

PLF filed the petition on behalf of Delta Construction Company Inc., Dalton Trucking Inc., the Southern California Contractors Association and the California Dump Truck Owners Association. Delta and Dalton are both based in California.

PLF argues the petitioners would be damaged by the regulations, which are the nation's first-ever federal restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from trucks, tractor-trailers and RVs.

The regulations were published in the Federal Register on Sept. 15.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration say the regulations are in response to President Barack Obama's directive in May 2010 to "take coordinated steps to produce a new generation of clean vehicles."

But Ted Hadzi-Antich, PLF's senior staff attorney, says the EPA is simply dictating new rules at the expense of manufacturers and while violating legal rules itself.

"Federal law says the EPA can't issue new clean-air regulations without submitting the proposals for independent scrutiny by its Science Advisory Board. The EPA recklessly ignored this requirement," he said in a statement Monday.

"We're suing because federal regulators can't be allowed to thumb their noses at legal safeguards that are designed to ensure that new regulations are credible and well-considered. When the EPA acts like a scoflaw, it has to be called to account."

According to its website, the EPA's Science Advisory Board, made up of top scientists from universities and research institutions, was established by Congress in 1978.

Its mission includes reviewing the quality and relevance of the scientific and technical information being used or proposed as the basis for the EPA's regulations and advising the agency on broad scientific matters in science, technology, social and economic issues.

PLF argues that the EPA hurried the regulations through to impose controls on carbon dioxide emissions as quickly as possible.

"They literally broke the law in their haste," Hadzi-Antich said.

"Their refusal to submit the rules to independent scrutiny is especially troubling because these regulations would have a huge impact on the industry and the economy.

"They'll bring unprecedented federal intrusion into the manufacturing and use of medium and heavy-duty vehicles. They would add many thousands of dollars to the costs of new vehicles."

By requiring heavy-duty vehicles to increase fuel efficiency and decrease CO2 emissions, the federal government essentially wants to dictate the actual design of trucks and tractors, PLF argues.

Businesses, like Delta, say the price of implementing the regulations could prove too costly.

"My business has already been crushed by the dismal economy and merciless regulatory climate in California. With these regula­tions in place, my four heavy duty vehicles could be declared obsolete, and there will be no hope my employees could get back to work," Delta's owner Norman R. "Skip" Brown said.

And modifying or purchasing equipment is even more financially impossible, he said.

PLF is described as a donor-supported watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise and a balanced approach to environmental regulations in courts across the country.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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