There’s a difference between being “governed” and being “ruled.” It’s the difference between freedom and tyranny.
That’s what’s at stake in California as an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats “rules” the state’s trucking industry into ruins.
The California Air Resources Board is attempting to force diesel trucks off the road. Its latest new rule will require truck manufacturers to build electric-powered trucks and force companies to report to the state government about their shipping practices to assist future rulemaking.
The proposed Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation was unveiled last summer to meet what a CARB fact sheet called “very challenging mandates.” These include federal air-quality standards and the state’s mandates for “40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, and 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030.”
According to CARB’s July 2 fact sheet, “Meeting all of these goals requires a bold transformation in all sectors including stationary, industrial, residential, and transportation with significant contributions from public agencies, private businesses and individuals.”
If California was governed instead of ruled, elected officials accountable to the voters would look at exactly what is meant by “bold transformation” and “significant contributions.” There would be public hearings in key committees of the Legislature to consider costs and timelines. There would be an effort to cure the problem without killing the patient.
But California is ruled, not governed. The 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, put the wholly unaccountable California Air Resources Board in charge of regulating greenhouse gas emissions statewide. CARB has unchecked power to write rules that can bankrupt any business or industry in the state.
For example, in 2008, CARB banned diesel truck engines manufactured before 2010. More than a million trucks operating in California, including 625,000 that were registered out of state, were suddenly illegal. Under the Statewide Truck and Bus Rule, existing diesel engines could only be operated if they were retrofitted with a diesel particulate filter at a cost of about $15,000. Otherwise, the equipment had to be replaced.
The overall cost of the Truck and Bus Rule was estimated at $10 billion.
“Compliance has been a challenge,” CARB admitted in a presentation last December. “Most fleets operating in California are small businesses — 20 or fewer trucks,” and the recession “significantly impacted the trucking industry.”
Diesel particulate filters caused problems, too. A lawsuit against CARB by the Alliance for California Business documented fires and mechanical malfunctions caused by the filters, and unearthed a study by CARB itself that showed concerns about the functioning of the devices.
But rulers don’t have to be concerned with the problems of the little people. Thanks to a provision added to 2017’s Senate Bill 1 — the gas tax increase — compliance with the Truck and Bus Rule is now tied to DMV registration. Over 80,000 trucks operating in California as of last December are illegal on the state’s roads effective Jan. 1, 2020. Small businesses with older trucks were faced with a choice between spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace working vehicles, or selling them at fire sale prices to someone in another state or country. Some business owners simply gave up and closed down.
The new Advanced Clean Trucks rule targets truck manufacturers and companies that ship goods in California. The goal, CARB says, is to “accelerate the first wave of zero-emission trucks.” When compared to diesel vehicles, CARB says, zero-emissions trucks “are two to five times more energy efficient, reduce dependence on petroleum, and reduce GHG emissions substantially.”
Under the proposed rule, “Manufacturers who certify Class 2B-8 chassis or complete vehicles with combustion engines would be required to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales from 2024 to 2030. By 2030, zero-emission truck/chassis sales would need to be 50% of class 4 — 8 straight trucks sales and 15% of all other truck sales.”
Then there’s a reporting requirement for “large employers including retailers, manufacturers, brokers and others.” They’d have to give the state “information about shipments and shuttle services.” Owners of fleets with 100 or more trucks would be required to file reports, too. “This information would help identify future strategies to ensure that fleets purchase available zero-emission trucks and place them in service where suitable to meet their needs,” CARB’s fact sheet states.
According to the agency, “most trucks and vans operate less than 100 miles per day and several zero-emission configurations are available to serve that need.” What about longer or less predictable routes? “As technology advances, zero-emission trucks will become suitable for more applications,” CARB declares.
In the meantime, your tax dollars are needed to subsidize the higher upfront cost of zero-emission trucks and any credits that are offered to offset the expense of electricity. You might even have to pay higher electricity rates to cover the cost of installing charging infrastructure.
There’s more than a little bit of hypocrisy in the government’s claims that diesel trucks are a threat to public health. “The highest level of exposure is experienced by people living near ports, rail yards and freeways where diesel fuel is used to operate heavy duty trucks, vehicles and machinery,” CARB says. Yet local governments continue to approve new multi-family housing construction so close to freeways that Caltrans workers could reach over and paint the kitchens. Shouldn’t CARB say something about that?
Air quality is obviously important, and genuine public health data belongs in the discussion along with economic data. Poverty affects health, too. California has the highest poverty rate in the nation when the cost of living is taken into account, and the cost of living rises when the cost of trucking increases due to state regulations.
But CARB answers to no one. Like other rulers throughout history, the agency is building itself a palace, spending over $400 million on a new building in Riverside, including $2.4 million for what CARB chair Mary Nichols called “a selection of world-class art by artists whose work embraces environmental and equity themes.”
It’s good to be king.
The proposed Advanced Clean Trucks rule is currently in its 45-day “public comment” period. If you’d like to express your opinion, visit arb.ca.gov/lispub/comm/bclist.php and click “act2019.” A public hearing will be held on Dec. 12. Let them know what you think.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. [email protected] Twitter: @Susan_Shelley
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