The state imposes a rule based on phony science on all U.S. truckers.
Oct. 18, 2015 7:50 p.m. ET
The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB) are riding high after exposing Volkswagen ’s emission scam. But the self-proclaimed guardians are running their own regulatory racket. See their shakedown of Virginia-based trucker Estes Express Lines.
Under the Clean Air Act, the Golden State enjoys unique authority to impose stricter emission standards than the EPA, but only within its sovereign borders. Yet CARB exported its vehicle emission standards nationwide by forcing auto makers to re-engineer their fleets to state rules. Now the agency is trying to bring out-of-state truckers to heel.
In 2008 CARB banned diesel engines manufactured before 2010 from California roads. Under the rule, over a million truckers who operate in California, including 625,000 registered out of state, are required to replace their engines with a newer model or install a diesel particulate filter, which can cost more than their vehicles are worth.
This month CARB and EPA announced a $390,000 settlement with Estes—$100,000 of which goes to the U.S. Treasury—for failing to install filters on 73 of 500 trucks it operated in California between 2012 and 2014. Estes has since upgraded its entire California fleet.
CARB doesn’t have authority to subpoena documents from out-of-state businesses, so EPA assisted the investigation by asserting jurisdiction under California’s 2012 State Implementation Plan of the Clean Air Act that includes the truck rule. Last year EPA demanded that a dozen interstate trucking companies show compliance with California’s rule. A CARB spokesperson says the prosecution is “the first of what we hope are many cases.” Caveat trucker.
Not surprisingly, the green police claim they are protecting Californians. According to EPA, the truck rule will prevent 3,500 premature deaths between 2010 and 2025. Yet there’s little evidence linking diesel particulate matter with an increase in mortality in California, which has among the lowest age-adjusted death rates in the country.
Studies show a weak association between mortality and particulate matter in Appalachia and the Midwest, but virtually no correlation in the western United States. This may be because the chemical composition of particulate matter—which can be generated from dust, wildfires, pollen, power plants, mining and farming—varies by region. Diesel exhaust makes up a small fraction of these fine airborne particles.
Notably, the epidemiological study that CARB used to justify its truck rule in 2008 had to be corrected after it was revealed that the report’s lead staff scientist had purchased his statistics doctorate for $1,000 from a diploma mill. CARB later revised its estimates of premature deaths prevented by the rule down to 3,500 from 9,400. After discovering the deceit, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols failed to inform the board and went ahead and propounded the regulations for adoption.
In other words, the regulations under which EPA and CARB are prosecuting truckers are based on dubious science. But when the cause is green virtue, such details don’t matter.