Regulatory Developments

Pruitt Wants to Revisit Provisions of GHG Rule for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles

Responding to petitions for reconsideration from several industry organizations, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced that the Agency will “revisit provisions” of its Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2 (October 25, 2016, FR). Based on short letters he has sent to petitioners, it appears that Pruitt will focus on provisions covering trailers and gliders. As of this writing, there is no record on EPA’s website that Pruitt has responded to several other petitions to reconsider the rule’s applicability to on-road vehicles that are converted to race cars and to tires used on regulated vehicles. Neither did the website include a response to a letter from the National Biodiesel Board requesting that the rule be amended to promote the use of biodiesel fuel by the regulated sector.

Rule applies to 2027

The Phase 2 Rule follows Phase I standards for greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks manufactured in model years (MYs) 2014–2018, which were jointly issued by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in August 2011. In August 2016, the EPA and NHTSA built on the Phase 1 standards with the Phase 2 Rule affecting medium- and heavy-duty vehicles through MY 2027. According to the agencies, compliance with the Phase 2 Rule is expected to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons; save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion; and reduce oil consumption by up to 2 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program.

No authority under CAA

The industry petitions assert that the Clean Air Act (CAA) does not give the EPA the authority to regulate either trailers—because they are not motor vehicles, or gliders—because they are not new motor vehicles.

  • Gliders are medium- and heavy-duty trucks that are assembled by combining certain new truck parts (that together constitute a glider kit) with a refurbished powertrain—the engine, the transmission, and typically the rear axle—of an older truck. According to the letter sent by attorneys representing glider manufacturers, the Phase 2 Rule for the first time imposes the same emissions standards on gliders that apply to new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines.

“Simply adding new parts to a used truck does not make it a ‘new motor vehicle,’” states the letter. “The Phase 2 Rule’s consideration of this issue was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to 1aw.”

  • Regarding trailers, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) writes that the CAA authorizes the EPA to regulate “motor vehicles,” expressly defined as vehicles that are “self-propelled.”

“A trailer is not self-propelled,” writes the TTMA. “The rationale EPA offered in the Final Rule—that trailers may be regulated as ‘incomplete vehicles’—reads the definition of ‘motor vehicle’ out of the statute. A ‘motor vehicle’ that is ‘incomplete’ because it is not ‘self-propelled’ and requires a tractor to pull it is not a motor vehicle.”

The letters requesting reconsideration and Pruitt’s responses are here.

National inconsistency

The trucking and engine sector is not universally opposed to the Phase 2 Rule. For example, almost immediately after Pruitt announced that he would revisit provisions of the rule, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) wrote to tell the administrator that the EMA and its members have consistently supported its implementation.

“EMA members strongly support a uniform, nationwide program to apply regulatory controls to the greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency of the heavy-duty products they produce,” said EMA President Jed Mandel. “The collaborative rulemaking approach that EPA and NHTSA used to develop the Phase 2 rules is fostering the adoption of an aligned program by the California Air Resources Board. Aligning the heavy-duty on-highway greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency regulations across the United States is the only way for manufacturers to effectively meet the needs of their customers in the nation’s trucking industry.”

“Truck and engine manufacturers have significant concerns that reopening the federal rules could lead to the promulgation of different requirements across the nation,” the EMA letter added. “EMA members have already begun investing considerable resources to develop products that will achieve the complex and stringent new standards beginning in 2021 and are concerned that changes to the rules could reduce necessary lead-time and regulatory certainty. In addition, those product development expenditures could multiply if manufacturers are forced to meet differing, and potentially conflicting, requirements.”

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