California environmental lawsuit still up in the air

By Dee Thompson | Feb 2, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO–Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 are hoping that a change in the White House will have the desired effect on a clean air policy on the other side of the nation.

The lawsuit, Dalton Trucking Inc., et al., v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, challenges whether California should be granted special waivers that preempt federal rules regarding clean air in the state. It is expected to be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sometime this year.

Courtesy of Morguefile

The Clean Air Act of 1970 allows California to write its own environmental regulations provided they are as stringent as the federal ones. California must prove that conditions are so extraordinary that they can be mitigated only by regulations unique to the state.

The plaintiffs argue that the EPA was incorrect in allowing California to write its own regulations, and they say the Trump Administration might have come along just in time.

Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs for the Western States Trucking Association, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, told the Northern California Record that he believes they now have a good chance of prevailing.

“When it comes to legal challenges,  there are no guarantees," he said. "However, we are encouraged that President Trump’s nominee to head up the U.S. EPA has questioned whether California should be granted the enforcement waivers from the U.S. EPA to institute their own independent air quality regulations. Our lawsuit claims the U.S. EPA applies the wrong set of standards when considering a waiver application – essentially acting as a rubber stamp to the whims of California regulators.”

Rajkovacz said a court victory would mean a lot to many state industries.

“It’s not just trucking that could see benefits from a favorable decision, but nearly all California businesses that have been forced to comply with ever-more onerous regulations from the ARB (Air Resources Board) – oftentimes for questionable air quality improvements," he said. "Nobody in our industry supports dirty air, as the industry has been pilloried by the environmental left. Air quality is vastly improved from the 1960s, and in fact, today’s diesel engine emit 99 percent less exhaust gases than what engines produced 15 years ago. The cost for those improvements to the trucking industry just in this state is measured in billions of dollars, from better engine technology to reformulated ultra-low sulfur fuel, yet ARB wants to continue tinkering with how goods are moved.”

He said he is counting on the White House to think his way.

 “I would like to think some sanity would come to how rules are made and justified," Rajkovacz said. "California’s child poverty rate (26 percent) is the highest in the nation – we’re worse than Appalachia. There is a direct link between economic outcomes (not having a job) and health effects; it is statistically measurable, much more that the specious science used by ARB to throttle California industry at all levels under the guise of improving human health by their continually rule-making. It would be nice if we ended up with leadership in Washington that recognizes we can have economic growth and a clean environment at the same time. I truly don’t believe anyone in Sacramento thinks that, even though politicians and bureaucrats often mouth those words.”

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Organizations in this Story

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Western States Trucking Association

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