EPA budget includes funds for next big rig crackdown

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 2/28/2012

The Environmental Protection Agency is slated to receive $8.344 billion next year in its budget. On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told a joint panel of two congressional subcommittees the budget includes cash earmarked for the agency’s “first ever carbon pollution and fuel economy standards for heavy duty trucks.”

What Jackson didn’t, say, however, is that the budget includes measures that will likely cost truck owners dearly in the future.

EPA Administrator Jackson was testifying Tuesday before a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce – Energy and Power, and Environment and Economy.

EPA reached agreements last year with heavy-duty truck manufacturers to mandate the nation’s first fuel economy standards for trucks. The standards will first take effect for model year 2014 trucks.

EPA budget language shows the agency is poised to develop “a second phase of greenhouse gas regulations in fiscal year 2013.”

According to the budget, this second phase will incorporate a complete vehicle approach and will bring a wider range of advanced technologies, including hybrid vehicle drive trains.

EPA plans for SmartWay to “develop greenhouse gas accounting protocols for heavy-duty diesel trucks and explore opportunities to evolve protocols for the multimodal freight supply chain network.”

SmartWay has been a voluntary program by which members are recognized when they use aerodynamic trailer side skirts, low-rolling-resistance tires, and other equipment believed to improve mileage.

Ryan Bowley, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, said the budget language is EPA’s first acknowledgement that the agency is already moving toward round two of greenhouse gas regulations “before the ink is really dry on rules that went into effect last September.”

“Some out there want this next round of regulation to tell truckers what kind of trailer they can hook to their tractor,” Bowley said. “At the end of the day these regulations – especially for a small-business trucker fighting for every dime he or she makes – now mean small business truckers are fighting additional government mandates that greatly affect their bottom line.”

“You’ve got an industry where the average expense for fuel is 70 percent of a motor carrier’s expenses – and then EPA comes out and basically makes the argument that this is needed because truckers aren’t concerned about reducing their fuel mileage without government help?” Bowley said.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz said EPA’s aggressive regulating of emissions of heavy-duty trucks is yet another example of the agency’s overzealous efforts to control an industry “based largely on bogus science.”

“Round two will not only significantly increase truck prices further but also target regulations on trailers, increasing those prices as well,” Rajkovacz said. “This is huge government overreach under the false guise of protecting the environment.”

The three-hour hearing alternated between credit and criticism for the EPA administrator and the agency’s budget. The tone of questioning depended largely on which side of the aisle the member was sitting.

“The EPA budget is small compared to the full federal budget,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA. “EPA funding would be less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the federal budget.”

“I want to give you an ‘A’ for attending,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, said. “I cannot give you an ‘A’ for performance. You’ve tended to evade questions.”

Rep. Ed Whitfield , R-KY, pointed to EPA grants for foreign governments and companies, such as a $700,000 grant for pig farms in Thailand and several hundred thousand dollars to China in recent years.

“We owe China more money than we owe any other country,” Whitfield said. “We’re owing them money, then turning around and giving them money for their environmental issues.”

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