FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — California air regulators created an uneven playing field when they eased up on air-quality regulations for smaller operators of heavy-duty diesel trucks, a state judge ruled.
Postponing deadlines for smaller firms to upgrade to cleaner engines or install better pollution controls was unfair to trucking companies that already spent millions of dollars to comply with new regulations designed to clean up diesel emissions, Fresno County Judge Mark Snauffer ruled on June 7.
The California Air Resources Board in 2008 adopted the nation's toughest diesel emissions regulations, to get older trucks off the road and reduce health risks from soot and smog. The board relaxed the rules in 2010 and 2014.
The California Trucking Association and the John R. Lawson Rock and Oil trucking company sued the air board over its 2014 decision to delay emissions rules for smaller trucking firms that had pleaded for more time.
The trucking association claims the air board violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the California Environmental Quality Act in adopting the amendments.
Truckers who complied with the new regulations are undercut competitively by fleets that have taken advantage of the extended timeframe, the association said.
Snauffer ruled that the air regulators did ignore concerns that their decision would create unfair competition. The air board "did not undertake even a cursory analysis of the potential economic effects of the amendments on trucking companies that had already complied with the regulation," the judge ruled.
Snauffer also found that the air board did not consider the environmental consequences of its decision.
"(S)ubstantial evidence in the record supports a 'fair argument' that the amendments will have a significant effect on the environment with respect to (i) air quality, due to increased criteria pollutant emissions, and (ii) climate change, due to increased greenhouse gas emissions," the judge wrote.
Snauffer said the air board must comply with the rules it originally enacted to reduce diesel emissions.
California Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey defended the amendments, citing the "extreme economic pressures experienced by smaller trucking fleets and independent owners as they sought to comply by upgrading or purchasing new equipment."
"We responded by amending the regulation to make it more flexible for 'the little guys' to comply. This court decision negates those amendments and deals a profound blow to the smaller fleets, small farmers and independent owners," Corey said.
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