Law & Order

SEMA Files Friend of Court Briefing in Medium- and Heavy-Duty Emissions Standards

By the SEMA Washington, D.C., office

SEMA has joined the United States Chamber of Commerce, theTransport American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association and National Tank Truck Carriers this week, filing an amicus brief (friend of the court) supporting the "Western States Trucking Association and Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition, Inc. vs. United States Environmental Protection Agency" petition, which is currently pending before the D.C. Circuit Court.

The "Western States Trucking" petition to the court challenges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) waiver granted to California, permitting the state to implement its Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) Regulation, California's zero-emissions mandate for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. SEMA's friend of the court supports the petitioners' challenge to the EPA.

The organizations and their members in this friend of the court briefing represent a wide range of businesses in the supply chain that are affected by California's imposition of new zero-emissions requirements on the trucking industry. While some SEMA members supply parts and services to the medium- and heavy-duty trucking industry, the broader membership will be significantly impacted if ACT is implemented in its current form as a result of increased shipping costs and further disruptions to supply chains, including import and export of parts and raw materials.

The brief re-emphasizes SEMA's position that government policy, in its quest to achieve lower or zero automotive emissions goals, should remain technology neutral.

The arguments laid out in the petitioners' case include the following challenges to EPA's waiver for the ACT Regulation:

  • EPA's waiver exceeded legal bounds. The EPA failed to consider commenters' concerns over multiple fatal flaws in the ACT Regulation. As a result, California's decision to accelerate its in-state mandates for on-road, zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks will force upheaval on the national trucking sector, with serious repercussions for the consumers, communities, and industries that rely upon it nationwide.
  • California failed to adequately address the development of the infrastructure, or the procurement of raw materials needed to support battery-powered trucks on the road, as well as the upstream and downstream emissions produced by switching to battery power.  

California's standards are also inconsistent with federal requirements concerning technological feasibility and necessary lead time, resulting in unattainable goals. 

The standards also impose prohibitive costs on manufacturers and purchasers, with serious repercussions for the broader transportation industry. It also puts greater pressure on small and medium-sized businesses that cannot easily afford electric trucks and mandating equipment with operational capabilities that are insufficient to meet the needs of the nation's supply chain. 

  • Because the trucking industry serves nearly all other sectors of the economy, the costs imposed by the standards will be passed on in the form of higher prices for countless goods and services.

The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) allows California to establish emission standards while requiring EPA to curtail State overreach. Under the federal CAA, states are preempted from establishing their own vehicle and engine emissions standards. 

  • At that time, however, Congress granted California leeway to develop its own standards while permitting other states to adopt California's standards. However, Congress did not give California unreviewable free rein under this exception.
  • The petition also notes that even the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has warned that the drive toward battery-electric vehicles presents "challenges in ensuring that the raw materials are sustainably sourced given that their exploitation is often associated with undesirable environmental footprints, poor human rights and worker protection."

A full copy of the amicus brief can be found here.