Judge will consider CARB DPF lawsuit Friday

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Thursday, September 17, 2015

A legal action seeking to halt California’s enforcement of its diesel particulate filter regulation could come to a head as soon as Friday, Sept. 18.

Glenn County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Peter Twede is scheduled to hear a motion by the California Air Resources Board to dismiss a legal action brought by a trucking industry veteran and his organization.

The hearing will begin at 1 p.m., and will likely include an audience of interested truckers.

Plaintiffs in the case, the Alliance for California Business, believe DPFs have been the cause of 31 fires or more in the last 18 months, including several in CARB’s drought-worn home state.

The organization is seeking an injunction against the Truck and Bus Rule to prevent its enforcement by CARB. The lawsuit questions the safety of technology used to meet California’s Truck and Bus Rule – a multibillion-dollar rule that has banned trucks with pre-2007 model year engines and required DPFs on virtually all trucks hauling freight in the Golden State.

Earlier this year, the lawsuit appeared to hit a roadblock when Judge Twede denied the preliminary injunction, and asked the Alliance for California Business for more information.

Since then, Bud Caldwell, president of the Alliance for California Business and the owner of 11 trucks, said they have been working to show the dangers DPFs can create. Reached by phone Thursday, Caldwell said he believes the organization and its attorney have gathered a strong case.

One valuable source of information, he said, has been a member of his organization who is a retired engineer with Detroit Diesel.

“We have spent months gathering all this information,” Caldwell told Land Line. “I don’t think we’ve left any room for doubt.”

CARB declined to comment.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” Spokeswoman Karen Caesar said by e-mail Thursday.

Therese Cannata, attorney for the Alliance for California Business, said CARB has attempted to have the injunction thrown out by pointing to the air quality agency’s administrative appeal process.

“They’re trying to avoid hearing the case on its merits,” Cannata said. “They’re saying CARB has a remedy for truck owners to raise safety concerns. But the appeal process is very convoluted. If you think about it, do you show up with the charred truck after the fact?’

Diesel particulate fires seem to start after a combination of back pressure, excessive heat up to 1,500 degrees, diesel and oxygen, Cannata said. DPF operation requires diesel to be injected into a heated device and combined with air. Throw in dry climates and plenty of roadside tinder – and the potential for fire may be unpredictable, but it is present, she said.

Even more, Cannata said, proving a particular DPF will cause a fire on command would be difficult.

Attorneys for CARB have pointed to a national reporting system that’s supposed to collect information about truck fires throughout the United States.

The problem is, Cannata said, that reporting is voluntary and not required.

“They can track this information if they want to,” Cannata said. “But they don’t want to.”

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