WA Farm Bureau concerned by ‘clean fleet’ rule, notes California litigation

The Washington Farm Bureau is voicing concerns about zero-emission vehicle rules adopted in California….

By Randy Bracht | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The Washington Farm Bureau is voicing concerns about zero-emission vehicle rules adopted in California and their implications to agriculture and trucking industries in this state.

Earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board adopted a regulation to speed up deployment of “advanced clean fleets” with zero-emission vehicles within the transportation sector, including local and state governments, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In October, the California Trucking Association responded with a lawsuit in federal court challenging the feasibility and economic impact of the clean fleet rule.

“While the initiative is aligned with the state’s ambitious environmental goals, the (trucking association) has raised the alarm about the rule’s negative impact on freight mobility,” the Washington Farm Bureau stated in a press release Wednesday.

The farm bureau says there are potential ramifications in Washington because state legislators in 2020 directed the Washington Department of Ecology to “adopt rules to implement the motor vehicle emission standards of the state of California, including the zero-emission vehicle program.”

According to Ecology, there is a Dec. 31 deadline for Washington fleet owners and operations to report their 2022 vehicle operations.

“The agriculture industry is very concerned with the uncertainty looming over Washington as the Advanced Clean Fleets rule progresses and is now being litigated,” said Mike Ennis, Washington Farm Bureau’s governmental affairs director. “New zero emission trucks will be very expensive.”

California’s advanced clean trucks program begins with the 2024 model year, when manufacturers must begin selling a certain percentage of electric vehicles depending on their gross weight and style classifications. The percentage increases steadily over the following decade. Fleet operation box trucks, vans, and two-axle buses must be 100% zero emission by 2035; sleeper cab tractors by 2042.

“Legacy trucks” – often, those with diesel-fueled engines – would be retired at the end of their “useful life,” defined as 13 years or 800,000 miles, but no more than 18 years unless an exemption is granted, according to the trucking association.

The California rule’s “stringent requirements and timelines” could impose significant financial burdens on trucking companies that could also be felt by farmers and ranchers who rely on the industry to move their products to markets and ports, said the farm bureau, stating, “The current adoption schedule is untenable and Washington currently lacks the infrastructure to support this significant transition.”

Ennis said the mandate will disproportionately affect new farmers who often have less capital and rely on used equipment.

“Sadly, if this rule moves forward, it would be cost prohibitive to anyone hoping to start a career in agriculture,” said Ennis. “We hope the outcome of this litigation provides a sensible path forward and solutions for all parties.”

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 16, asks the federal court for a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction, alleging that truckers, customers, and the public face economic loss due to delays, logistics disruptions and equipment shortages posed to local and interstate commercial transportation by the California rule without regard to “clear Congressional authority” and federal regulation of the trucking industry.