Court backs CARB in legal challenge to reefer rule

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/5/2010

The Environmental Protection Agency was correct in granting California a waiver to enforce an emissions rule on reefers, a federal appeals court ruled this past week.

The federal Clean Air Act gives California the power to implement in-use non-road engine emissions rules more strict than the federal government. It also gives other states the option to adopt the California in-use non-road engine rules. The EPA must grant waivers for California emissions rules – essentially signing off on the regulations.

CARB enacted its transportation refrigeration unit rule, also known as the reefer rule, in 2004 and later obtained a waiver through the EPA. California didn’t start enforcing the rule on reefers until December 2009.

American Trucking Associations filed a legal challenge to the EPA’s decision to grant a waiver on the reefer rule, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling for on Friday.

The ruling said EPA’s decision to grant the waiver to California was not arbitrary and capricious.

Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “The Clean Air Act assigns California – not any of the states and not the federal Environmental Protection Agency – the primary role in setting limits on emissions from in-use non-road engines.

“The expansive statutory language gives California (and in turn EPA) a good deal of flexibility in assessing California’s regulatory needs,” the judgment reads. “We therefore find no basis to disturb EPA’s reasonable interpretation.”

In arguments presented this past October, ATA argued the EPA erred by agreeing with California that the state needed the rule to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” as well as that California’s rule prevented other states from choosing not to regulate TRUs.

Each of the 49 other states has the option to follow California’s lead and adopt an identical rule to California, or adopt no other rule at all.

“If ATA’s members operate trucks in California, they must comply while operating in California. If they do not operate in California, they need not comply. … ATA’s argument is best directed to Congress,” the judgment read.

CARB’s TRU rule is a two-tiered emissions rule that requires some reefers to be retrofitted with diesel particulate filters, though many older models must be replaced altogether.

CARB announced that since it began enforcing the first requirements of the TRU rule in January and February, 2,800 inspections have resulted in 55 citations for failure to register, 157 citations for not meeting the state’s TRU emissions requirements, and $180,000 in penalties assessed.

CARB says its TRU inspection teams enforce the regulation at “distribution centers, scales, border crossings, truck stops, ports, intermodal facilities and other locations.”

For more information, click here, or call CARB’s toll-free TRU Help Line during business hours at 888-878-2826, or e-mail

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer


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