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Federal court places implementation of GHG 2 standards on hold for trailers

A federal court has made it official, putting off indefinitely the implementation date for trailers under the federal government’s heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards (GHG 2). Whether the decision to stay the January 1, 2018, deadline eases or compounds uncertainty for trailer manufacturers and freight carriers remains to be seen, however.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit granted the stay, as requested by the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) in its petition for a review of the trailer component of GHG 2, a plan implemented by the Obama administration in 2016 that, as designed, would reduce carbon emissions by more than a billion metric tons through 2027.

For the first time, trailers were included in the emissions program as an integral part of the vehicle. The rule would require new trailers to be equipped with aerodynamic devices, fuel-efficient tires, and other technologies to improve the overall fuel efficiency of the combination vehicle.

TTMA, however, has argued that US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t have the authority to regulate trailers under the Clean Air Act, while also taking issue with a number of the assumptions EPA used to justify the regulation.

“It’s a good thing,” said Jeff Sims, TTMA president. “It’s an indefinite stay, basically until EPA comes out with their final review of the rules for trailers. Trailers can be built as if the rules do not exist.”

In August, the EPA announced that the government would “reconsider” portions of GHG 2 that pertain to trailers and truck glider equipment. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently posted notice that it had received from EPA a draft proposed rule that would repeal GHG 2 emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits.

While the text of the repeal will not be available until the OMB review is complete and EPA moves forward with the rulemaking, Sims said he anticipates the review will be handled quickly, given the GHG 2 implementation schedule.

“I’m fairly confident EPA will have the same for trailers in the next few weeks,” Sims said.

Some environmental groups, however, have criticized the Trump administration’s EPA for backing away from GHG 2. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) called the decision to reconsider the rule “a highly unusual action that emerged publicly at the 11th hour.”

“We are disappointed that the court allowed a delay of these important climate and public health safeguards that save truckers and families hard-earned money,” said Vickie Patton, EDF general counsel. “Importantly, the EPA’s vital limits on climate pollution from freight truck engines, a major and rapidly growing source of pollution, remain in full force and effect.”

The court’s grant of a stay pending judicial review will not affect other provisions of the truck standards.

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