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Pennsylvania Trucking Industry Sues After State Regulatory Agency Adopts California Emissions Standards

Pennsylvania Trucking Industry Sues After State Regulatory Agency Adopts California Emissions Standards

The plaintiffs argue the agency exceeded its authority or, in the alternative, that the legislature delegated the agency too much authority.

A Pennsylvania administrative agency charged with regulating vehicle emissions adopted California emissions and warranty requirements for heavy-duty diesel trucks in Pennsylvania. Trucking groups have sued to block enforcement of the California regulations, which are incorporated into Pennsylvania environmental regulations on a rolling basis as the California Code is amended according to the complaint.

Luke Wake, an attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, explained to Legal Insurrection his organization’s concerns with an administrative agency, or even the state’s legislature, using “a rolling incorporation of another state’s law”:

“It would be perfectly legal for the General Assembly to enact a statute that incorporates specific language, or even to adopt [a] regulation from another state as it exists in a specified year. . . . By contrast, when you have a rolling incorporation of another state’s law, there is a problem because you are accepting any changes they might make going forward without any idea what [you’re] getting into.”

The plaintiffs are two trucking companies, Peters Brothers and H.R. Ewell; a heavy-duty truck dealership, Transteck; and a trucking industry trade representative, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.

The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges the regulations place them “at a competitive disadvantage with competitors in other states who do not have to contend with California’s unwieldy regulatory standards.”

The California Code “now imposes a schedule of progressively more stringent emission standards for Model Year 2024−2031 vehicles,” and “California’s new standards will require warranty coverage for up to 150,000, 220,000, or 450,000 miles.” For 2031 models and beyond, “California’s new standards will require coverage for up to 210,000, 280,000, or 600,000 miles.”

The defendants are the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB), which adopted the California regulations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which enforces EQB regulations, and Richard Negrin, the Acting Secretary of the DEP.

The plaintiffs have accused the EQB of acting outside the scope of its rulemaking authority granted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The complaint alleges the EQB exceeded its authority to regulate “for the prevention, control, reduction and abatement of air pollution” when the agency imposed California warranty requirements on Pennsylvania vehicles.

The plaintiffs also argue the EQB’s adoption of California emissions standards is outside of the agency’s authority because California bureaucrats adopted the standards, whereas Pennsylvania law requires regulations to be “developed in consultation with the Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation.”

The plaintiffs also accuse the EQB of violating Pennsylvania law by “fail[ing] to submit [an] analysis considering the impact of California’s new heavy diesel emission and warranty standards on Pennsylvania small businesses” and not “considering alternatives for minimizing the impact on small businesses.”

The complaint further alleges the EQB “failed to submit, to the Governor’s Office, a written attestation that California’s new heavy diesel emission and warranty standards are needed to address a compelling public need in Pennsylvania” and “failed to provide a required cost/benefit analysis of California’s new heavy diesel emission and warranty standards.”

If, however, the General Assembly did delegate the EQB the necessary rulemaking authority, the plaintiffs argue that the grant of authority was itself unlawful. The plaintiffs cite the Constitution of Pennsylvania, which states that “[t]he legislative power of this Commonwealth shall be vested in a General Assembly.”

Wake elaborated on the Pacific Legal Foundation’s concern with “an open-ended delegation” of rulemaking authority:

[W]e also take issue with an open-ended delegation that leaves the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board unfettered discretion to adopt California standards (or not) as it deems fit. In our system those fundamental policy decisions must be made by the Legislature—not the Executive Branch.

According to the complaint, the delegation of authority to adopt California standards is too broad, meaning the General Assembly impermissibly delegated its legislative power:

The General Assembly provided no standard guiding or restraining the Pennsylvania Board’s exercise of rulemaking discretion in deciding what conduct should be subject to regulation.

* * *

To the extent that the General Assembly delegated unfettered rulemaking authority to the Pennsylvania Board to adopt any emission and warranty standards that the Board might deem fit, it provided no standard guiding or restraining the Board’s exercise of discretion.

The plaintiffs have requested a declaration that the EQB cannot adopt “a rolling incorporation of any California law” and that the California standards adopted by the EQB “have no effect in Pennsylvania for lack of statutory authority or because imposition of new California standards violates separation of powers” and Pennslyvania regulatory and administrative law.

A representative from the DEP declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have also requested the court permanently bar enforcement of the California standards in Pennsylvania and that the court award the plaintiffs costs and expenses.

The complaint:

Exhibit A, California emissions and warranty regulations:


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Here we go again with unelected gov’t agency “experts” exercising authority people delegated to the legislature. This will continue to happen until the PA legislature restrains this agency.

    diver64 in reply to Q. | June 22, 2023 at 3:41 am

    No-one in PA cares what the law says. We learned this last election.

      beautifulruralPA in reply to diver64. | June 22, 2023 at 8:24 am

      Hey now….actually the “votes” were close for senate so almost half didnt go for the hoodie man. Of course mostly Philly and Pittsburgh did (and the MD transplants!). Sadly we also have the RINO’s in charge for the most part /sigh/. We all need to start caring about this stuff.

smalltownoklahoman | June 21, 2023 at 11:42 am

Legislators can be held directly accountable to the people they represent by simply voting them out of office. It’s far harder however for the people to hold a bureaucrat accountable when they meddle in our lives and livelihoods in ways we don’t like. That is one of the big reasons they delegate so much to these agencies: so we can blame them directly for bad policy and to make it difficult to undo said policy outside of lawsuits or a sweeping legislative mandate, such as replacing a huge number of them with those who will work to undo the rules and regulations voters did not like.

JohnSmith100 | June 21, 2023 at 11:52 am

As a practical matter this is economic suicide for Pennsylvania. Think about the ripple effect through Pennsylvania’s economy.

The grasping claws of the regulators will not be satisfied until the whole US is under the same patchwork of laws as concealed carry, where you can be a law-abiding citizen one moment and a felon the next for just driving across a state or county line.

In addition to all the above, if the Pa truckers lose this case, then move the companies out of state. Let out of state truckers and owner operators and
dedicated carriers elsewhere avoid Pa. Voters will notice.

Looks like Fetterman wasn’t an exception. These people specialize in brain-dead.

Here in WA, our legislature has also abdicated any responsibility for setting standards. Cars are required to meet the CA standards, whatever those may be. It seems strange that a board in another state (CARB) is making laws that apply in WA.

California is able to set its own emissions standards because it has permission to do so from Congress. Congress has the authority regulate vehicle missions via the commerce clause, and CA needed permission to makes its own regulations because without permission it would be infringing upon Congress’ exclusive legislative jurisdiction. (BTW, during his presidency, Trump threatened to withdraw said permission from CA.) So it’s not clear that PA has the authority to do what is proposed, lacking similar authority from Congress.

    not_a_lawyer in reply to DaveGinOly. | June 22, 2023 at 12:02 am

    I am not denying your argument. However, my understanding is that congress cannot give powers to one particular state without granting the same powers to all states.

    On a side note, what is this notion of the federal government granting authority to states? I thought it was the states that granted power to the federal government…

    Back to the original point. California is free to define whatever rules they wish, however anti-conducive to civilization they may be. But by virtue of being the most populous state, the economic forces will compel the automakers to conform to their will. It is more economical to build vehicles by one standard rather than several standards. The automakers could, if they discovered it was in their economic interests to do so, build two versions of their vehicles, one for CA, and one for the rest of the states that do not have similarly stringent auto emission rules. However, after conducting a cost-benefit analysis, they always come back and say that the economic value of producing only one vehicle standard, available to all is more cost effective than setting up separate production lines.

    There will come a time when CA implements such draconian rules that the automakers will come to conclude that this is no longer the case, that CA emissions standards have become so onerous that it makes sense to set up separate production lines. Perhaps they will even decide that they do not wish to be in the CA market at all anymore.


Simple: stop truck deliveries to PA.

I’d give it a week before the proverbial lynchings begin of the morons who enact things they have no authority in order to support moonbeam and Unicorn theories.

Just 16 comments on this? I’m surprised people don’t realize just what is going on here and how important it is to the trucking industry. You know, the one that brings them everything they have

    CommoChief in reply to diver64. | June 22, 2023 at 10:06 am

    It’s important for PA and surrounding areas of other States served by trucking Co subject to the regs. I live in Bama so it doesn’t impact me much if at all. Now if it were federal legislation that would be a different story.

    Frankly this abdication of power from legislature to agencies is already under severe scrutiny from the current SCOTUS. They are chipping away at the rule making which wasn’t explicitly delegated with the Chevron rule in their sights for the near future, IMO. I suspect that the practical effect here which is to outsource legislation and rule making to another State, CA, will not ultimately hold up in CT.

The problem here is a rogue agency. Unless there is something in the PA Constitution that constrains the Legislature, the Legislature could well have the power to adopt a law to the effect that “whatever California’s rules are from time to time, as determined by the solons in Sacramento, those are our rules.” Essentially that is no different from saying, for example, that a lawyer admitted in another state can waive in or a driver licensed elsewhere can exchange his out-of-state license for a PA license if he moves to PA, even though when the law is passed by PA there is nothing that requires reenactment of the law when other states’ change their own rules for drivers or bar admission. But an agency should not be granted open-ended power like that. However, the question is one of state law: does PA have a Chevron-like deference doctrine, what are the PA constitutional constraints, etc.?