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California Air Resources Board
On the eve of its 40th birthday, we take a look at how a board of appointees has become the most relentless and influential environmental agency in the world – and how its sweeping new trucking rules for 2008 will affect drivers …

By Charlie Morasch
Staff Writer

 

California

Just mention the state and watch the eyes roll of truckers frustrated by red tape, delays at overloaded ports and warehouses and the ever-growing restrictions on engines and truck equipment.

Joe Rajkovacz, who regularly drove into the Los Angeles area during his 29 years in trucking, said drivers breathe in every pollutant the state is famous for.

“Any driver who’s operated in California is well aware of the poor air quality,” said Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist. “Dropping into the L.A. Basin, you can actually see the air you’re going to breathe.”

For 60 years, California has tried everything from testing the effects of ozone on state employees to holding factories and vehicles to stricter standards than the federal government imposes – all to clean smog from its skylines.

The state’s biggest victories in environmental laws, however, have come from the California Air Resources Board – an 11-member board of unpaid, part-time political appointees selected by the governor and referred to by California natives simply as the Air Resources Board.

With the approach of California’s 2008 laws limiting idling and equipment use for heavy-duty diesel trucks, drivers have gotten to know more about CARB and its regulating of everything from factories to air conditioner refrigerant.

CARB has been given so much power when it comes to guarding the air, if it wants an edict regarding greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, CARB can study it, write its own regulation and enforce it.

That means truckers must take heed.

Beginning next year, CARB will enforce three new emissions laws that will limit idling to five minutes, will remove older reefer units from the road and will require new diesel particulate filter systems for APUs on model-year 2007 trucks and newer.

As Oklahoma trucker and OOIDA member Noble Nordahl commented recently to “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio:

“It’s coming.”

 

Who is CARB?

The California Air Resources Board is made up of 11 members, including 10 unpaid, part-time political appointees and one full-time, paid chair position.

State law requires that the board include a member from each of the following boards: San Diego Air Pollution Control District; San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District; San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District; South Coast Air Quality Management District; and one from any other district.

The board also must have: one representative with expertise in automotive engineering; a member with expertise in science, law or agriculture; a physician or surgeon or expert in health effects; and three members with an expertise in air pollution control.

Board members are appointed by the governor and must be approved by the state Senate.

 

The new frontier: 2008 trucking rules

California’s expanse down the West Coast and its diverse economy means plenty of jobs for long haulers. The state’s long-term smog problems and attention to the environment, however, mean more hoops to jump through for truck owners who aren’t even baseplated in California.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, drivers entering California will be dealing with the first in a surge of new heavy-duty diesel truck restrictions ushered in by CARB.

The new laws include, most prominently, a limit for idling of parked trucks of five minutes. From 2005 through 2007, CARB has allowed idling for drivers in their sleeper berths, but that exception is being dropped as California tries to reduce all emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020.

Drivers may still idle if they’re running temperature-dependent loads such as hazmat, for heating or cooling if they’re facing a health emergency, or to run defrost to avoid a safety issue before they hit the road.

Other rules coming online in 2008 include:

The inclusion of an automatic engine shut-off device for 2008 model-year and newer trucks;

A ban on reefer units that aren’t model year 2002 or newer, unless an approved retrofit reduces at least 50 percent of emissions from reefer units built in 2001 or before; and

No use of diesel-powered APUs on 2007 model-year trucks with ’07 engines and newer, unless they are used in conjunction with a CARB-approved DPF system.

For more information about California’s 2008 law on APUs and engine shut-off device, see Paul Abelson’s article on Page 51.

California’s reputation as the nation’s toughest environmental state is giving way to a new title: the world’s warrior against greenhouse gases.

CARB’s power to address greenhouse gases and their relationship with climate change makes for an interesting dynamic for board members, according to Air Resources Board Member Daniel Sperling.

Federal standards have made diesel trucks run much cleaner in recent years, Sperling told Land Line Magazine, but the need for clean air is growing in importance as population and development combine to threaten California’s natural environment.

“California is leading the way for the U.S.,” Sperling told Land Line. “There’s going to be a lot more of those kinds of initiatives coming out of California and coming out of CARB.”

Origins of a powerhouse

CARB has come a long way as an agency since its 1967 founding under the guidance of then-Gov. Ronald Reagan.

In fact, the agency’s roots trace back to 1947 when then-governor Earl Warren, future Supreme Court Justice, created the Air Pollution Control Act and air pollution control districts for each county in the Golden State.

In 1952, Dr. Arie Haagen-Smit noticed his garden’s plant leaves were wilting and suspected smog. Haagen-Smit – who later became CARB’s first chairman – came forward and identified that when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons mix with sunlight they create smog.

Haagen-Smit tested the effects of ozone on some lab employees, and by the 1960s, California was working on the nation’s first exhaust controls for cars.

Originally a merger of California’s Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board and Bureau of Air Sanitation in 1967, one of the earliest actions by CARB was to ban backyard burning in California’s worst polluted areas in 1970. The agency also passed the nation’s first limits to nitrogen oxide emissions from cars in 1971.

The agency limited lead in gasoline in 1976 and in 1984 became the first state to begin regularly testing vehicle emissions.

Now in its 40th year, CARB boasts a $300 million annual budget and 1,000 employees.

CARB board members remain unpaid, though they’re given stipends to travel to meetings around the state. The board is appointed, serves at the pleasure of the governor and is a part of California’s executive branch.

Green heat

As with other state issues, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasted little time before delving into clean-air issues with CARB.

. In 2006, Schwarzenegger gave CARB its first sweeping authority by signing Assembly Bill 32 or the California Global Warming Solutions Act – requiring CARB to return California’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The law also requires the agency to adopt individual measures to achieve maximum reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, the California Assembly gave CARB the power to research, present a rule, adopt that rule and enforce fines and penalties for any engines that emit gases.

CARB member Sperling has long studied emissions and transportation issues at his post as professor of civil engineering and environmental science policy and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California-Davis.

Before joining CARB, Sperling studied several initiatives for the air quality agency and recently made headlines by announcing they had identified a low-carbon fuel standard that would reduce carbon dioxide emission from fuels by 10 percent by the year 2020.

It wasn’t until Schwarzenegger approved AB32 last year – directing CARB to research, develop, implement and enforce greenhouse gas emissions laws – that Sperling’s interest in serving on the CARB Board came to fruition.

“The ARB is going to become much more prominent and much more important over the next few years,” Sperling said.

Schwarzenegger’s honeymoon period as California’s 38th governor is long gone. So is the notion that the beefed-up bodybuilder and actor will pull a Jesse “The Body” Ventura and dart from the political arena.

Instead, the Governator is waist-deep in California’s biggest issues, while California’s most influential state agency forges ahead with new and tougher environmental laws.

During the past three years, Schwarzenegger has put air quality at the forefront of the state’s agenda, and has stamped his influence on the independent agency by personally appointing Sperling and seven of the other 11 CARB board members.

California’s feelings about air quality extend across political divisions, and are championed by politicians like U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who The Wall Street Journal quoted as saying “global warming could reshape the world as we know it,” and she said she plans to introduce federal legislation similar to California’s greenhouse gas emissions enforcement.

CARB controversy

CARB’s climb to prominence hasn’t been without its share of mistakes.

Just this year, CARB has tangled with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Big Three American automakers in a showdown over limiting greenhouse gas emissions. More than 12 other states have moved to adopt California’s carbon emissions standard rather than rely on the EPA.

Schwarzenegger threatened to sue the federal government over the EPA’s reluctance to allow California to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists, however, slammed Schwarzenegger after he fired CARB Chairman Robert Sawyer in June, saying Schwarzenegger tried to slow enactment of tougher emissions rules. Sawyer’s firing prompted Catherine Witherspoon – another top agency executive – to quit.

Witherspoon told the California Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee that Schwarzenegger’s office routinely meddled in CARB affairs, including diesel emissions rules.

“The Administration’s internal dialogue has become completely one-sided and is contrary to his stated commitment to balance environmental and economic objectives,” Witherspoon told the Assembly panel.

“For the past year, the pressure has been relentless and it has all run one way. Slow down. Do less. Go easier on industry.”

The agency was criticized in the early 2000s after car manufacturers persuaded CARB to back off a 2003 law mandating 10 percent of all car sales be zero emission vehicles.

This summer, Schwarzenegger and California Republicans have battled over the state’s budget and whether Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown can sue local governments who fail to address climate change during construction projects.

In August, California’s sharp restrictions on off-road construction diesel equipment led to construction equipment rental companies in the state selling used heavy equipment to buyers in Mexico and Asia, shifting pollution to poorer nations.

Balancing act

CARB board members are aware that new laws affecting trucking next year are severe but Sperling said the agency wants to keep the industry viable.

“As our governor said, we are committed to preserving the environment but also maintaining a strong economy,” Sperling said. “The effects on the trucking industry are of paramount interest and importance to us ... on the one hand we don’t want to put truckers out of business. We don’t want to cause any undue economic hardship, but on the other hand, the diesel emissions are a big part of the problem.”

The act also gave CARB power to enforce ordinances and pursue fines for violators of laws restricting everything from vehicle emissions to aftermarket parts.

CARB is using that power.

In 2006 alone, CARB wrote 1,992 citations and collected $6.7 million in penalties. It also inspected 17,000 heavy-duty vehicles to enforce emission laws and fined trucking companies a collective $1 million.

As of June 2007, the agency had already tallied $1.1 million in fines from trucking-related companies.

The agency has studied the use of roadside emissions testers that actually test and document individual vehicles that travel down highways, though the most recent study has proven to be cost prohibitive.

CARB officials point to California’s dirty air while acknowledging the drastic nature of some regulations.

Nearly 15 percent of California children are diagnosed with asthma, compared to 12 percent of children nationally, according to a 2003 study by the California Center for Health Statistics.

Schwarzenegger and CARB have cited similar statistics in their effort to clean the state’s air and meet federal mandates set in the Clean Air Act.

The impending idling restriction in particular frustrates drivers like Jesse Woods, who isn’t baseplated in California, but heads to the Golden State on his regular route.

“How do they expect people to live in their truck – when it’s so damn hot it will kill you,” Woods told Land Line. “Those big, fat cat politicians, they don’t have to live with these rules.”

Regardless of any debate of global warming’s causes or the parallels CARB draws between emissions and medical issues, tougher laws and enforcement are coming and will be emulated by other states, said OOIDA’s Rajkovacz.

While no one likes more red tape, drivers realize the air quality difference in California, Rajkovacz said.

Rajkovacz met with CARB officials in August and he said OOIDA and other industry reps have voiced concerns and objections to new regulations in public meetings with the agency.

Drivers can retrofit existing engines, Rajkovacz said, though most small businesses have difficulty choking down $12,000 to $14,000 per truck.

“They’re deadly serious about doing this, however, regardless of someone’s individual politics,” Rajkovacz told Land Line. “I go back to the obvious – anybody who’s operated out there clearly has seen the air they’re going to breathe. They know there is a problem.”

Regs on the horizon

While most truckers have heard about CARB’s limits on diesel-fired APUs, reefers and idling taking effect in 2008, the agency is preparing to enact other laws aimed at tightening the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

One proposed law would restrict trucks allowed into ports. A second proposal seeks to eliminate older over-the-road trucks from being allowed to run in the state entirely.

The proposed port regulation looks to prevent 1994 and older model-year trucks from entering ports by 2009. By 2010, trucks with 1997 model-year engines and older wouldn’t be allowed in, and would require all trucks to meet 2003 federal emissions standards by retrofitting.

If adopted, CARB’s over-the-road proposal will prohibit trucks with engines built in 1995 or older by the year 2009, with more truck engines being prohibited in subsequent years. By 2014, only trucks with engines meeting 2004 or stricter emissions standards would be allowed to run in the state. And, in 2020, only trucks with 2007 engines or newer would be allowed to run in the state.

The Governator’s future

After he fired Chairman Sawyer, Schwarzenegger calmed the fears of critics by appointing respected environmental attorney Mary Nichols to fill the post.

Nichols – who previously chaired CARB from 1978 to 1983 – told the California Senate Rules Committee in mid-July that she was prepared to pilot CARB’s enactment of tougher emissions rules while navigating political pressures and industry concerns.

“The implementation of these laws is an intensely political activity as well as a technical one,” Nichols told the Los Angeles Times. “If we can’t get the public to agree, then we don’t have a program.”

In announcing Nichols’ appointment, Schwarzenegger pounded home CARB’s mission.

“When one out of six residents in the San Joaquin Valley has been diagnosed with asthma and one in five children carry an inhaler to school, it is a call to action,” Schwarzenegger said then.

“The Air Resources Board must keep California on the path of cleaner air, particularly in areas with significant air-quality issues such as the San Joaquin Valley, the South Coast and areas around our ports.”

As diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants lower, CARB will emphasize cleaner-burning fuels and fuel economy, Sperling told Land Line.

“Because of the growing concern about climate change, there’s going to be a redoubled effort to figure out how to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption by trucks,” Sperling said.

“Trucks have been left alone because truckers have a strong economic incentive to reduce costs and improve efficiency, so to some extent the market has worked in doing that. But there’s a sense by many people that much more is possible.”

The Big Three Detroit-based automakers challenged California’s law limiting carbon dioxide emissions from cars and SUVs. Will the trucking industry respond in kind when California pursues climate change-based restrictions of new trucks?

Heavy-duty diesel trucks are likely the next major target for greenhouse gas emissions, Sperling said.

“We focused on (emissions from) cars starting in the ’60s, didn’t really focus on trucks until the ’80s,” Sperling said. “And we’ve been doing the same thing with fuel economy.”

California must avoid “Mickey Mouse” politics and move forward with new limits on vehicle emissions, Schwarzenegger told reporters on July 3 while announcing his appointment of Nichols to head the CARB Board.

Nichols will help CARB’s emission controls progress and lead the way as other states and countries are likely to follow the agency’s lead, Schwarzenegger said.

The governor recounted Nichols’ time as CARB chairwoman from 1978 to 1983, when the agency prepared several emissions laws including a biannual smog-check program for vehicles that went into effect in 1984. Her tenure proved Nichols “was unafraid and made bold decisions,” Schwarzenegger said.

Nichols will help California meet its goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, Schwarzenegger told reporters, and the new appointee later said she planed to “reach out to all the affected communities in the state.”

“We’ve got to move very aggressively right now,” Schwarzenegger said.

Nichols approached the podium that day and aligned herself with Schwarzenegger.

“I can’t resist,” she said, pausing before referencing the governor’s Terminator character.

“I’m back.”

charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

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