EDF, States, Environmental Advocates Will Urge D.C. Circuit to Uphold Pollution Safeguards for Freight Trailers

Oral Argument Scheduled for Tomorrow Morning

September 14, 2020
Sharyn Stein, 202-905-5718, sstein@edf.org

(Washington, D.C. – September 14, 2010) Eight states and five of the nation’s largest environmental groups, including EDF, will appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit tomorrow morning to argue for upholding widely accepted standards that reduce pollution from the freight trailers that carry goods on America’s highways.

“The transportation sector is the biggest source of climate pollution in America. Freight trailers on our highways contribute significantly to that dangerous climate pollution and other pollution that harms human health,” said EDF Senior Attorney Alice Henderson, who will argue the case for the state and environmental intervenors. “The tragic wildfires across the West, storms and floods in other parts of the country, and our super-sized hurricane season remind us daily of the urgent need to reduce climate pollution so we can protect our families and communities. The freight trailer standards will help protect us while also saving money, and they are firmly grounded in the law.”

The pollution protections before the court are part of the Clean Truck Standards, which were adopted in 2016 with broad support from industry and the public. The standards will limit pollution from heavy-duty vehicles through the year 2027. They will reduce climate pollution by more than one billion metric tons, will reduce oil consumption by an estimated two billion barrels, and will save the trucking industry an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs. They’ll also provide and estimated $400 in annual household savings for the average American family through lower costs for shipping goods. The standards are due to take effect early next year, but most large truck manufacturers are already in compliance with them.

The trade group representing freight trailer manufacturers sued, however, claiming that trailers should be exempt from the standards because EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration do not have authority over them. EDF and other environmental groups responded to that argument in their earlier briefs to the D.C. Circuit, saying:

“The trade group representing freight trailer manufacturers … contends that Congress did not permit EPA to regulate the 18-wheeler tractor-trailers that actually haul the nation’s freight, but only the tractor cab where the driver sits … [The trade group’s] argument hinges on chopping the motor vehicle in half, focusing solely on the tractor and ignoring the 8-wheel trailer segment of the 18-wheeler. But a tractor is not designed to transport either persons or property by itself … Both halves of the vehicle are necessary to move freight, and both contribute to the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that Congress sought to control.” (Brief, page 2, 8, 9)

The case has been pending for three years while the Trump administration considered the issue – but the administration will now also defend the conclusion that trailers are vehicles subject to regulation.

Oral argument in the case, Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Inc. v. EPA, will be heard by D.C. Circuit judges Garland, Millett and Walker during arguments that begin at 9:30 am Eastern time tomorrow. The D.C. Circuit live-streams audio of arguments; a link can be found on the court website.

Eight states – California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – will defend the standards in court tomorrow, along with EDF and Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

You can find more about the Clean Truck standards, including all the briefs in the case, on EDF’s website.

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