SCAQMD Rallies its Clean Fleet Rules

California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has rallied another legal argument to move forward with its controversial “clean fleet rules,” which restricted many fleet owners to purchasing alternative-fueled vehicles within the district.

SCAQMD has tapped the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to endorse its rules on the basis that it qualifies for a waiver of preemption under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). CAA says all states are required to follow the federal standards, with the exception of California if the State determines its own rules are “at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards.”

If CARB endorses the SAQMD rules, the state agency will then submit the rules to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether it qualifies for a waiver.

The Engine Manufacturers Assn. (EMA) challenged these rules in 2000, asserting that the rules violated CAA, which prohibits states and political subdivisions from adopting any standard that controls the emissions of new motor vehicles. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of EMA in an 8-1 decision on April 28, 2004.

See Supreme Court Overturns Calif. Diesel Restrictions

CARB is currently accepting public comments on whether or not it should back the rules through November 15, 2004.

“The Supreme Court basically told them (SCAQMD) they had to get a waiver— they didn’t squash them (the rules), but said they had to go through the process…they (the Court) clearly left the door open,” Jerry Martin, CARB spokesperson told Fleet Owner.

“To us it’s not that simplistic, largely because this is the first time has this has ever happened. Usually when someone asks for a waiver, it is because of something we did, not what a local district did,” Martin explained.

If SCAQMD were successful in going forward with its rules, it could open the floodgates for a series of requests for waivers within the state, Martin said. “The Port of Long Beach already asked us to submit a waiver for them— the queue has already begun.”

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