From: Don Thompson, Associated Press
Published May 2, 2005 12:00 AM

California Judge Rejects Challenge to Diesel Emission Rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Truck drivers face tougher pollution regulations starting Saturday after diesel engine manufacturers lost a court battle to postpone the deadline.


Judge Loren McMaster refused to issue a preliminary injunction Thursday, saying he sympathizes with the manufacturers' complaint but has no power to intervene because the stricter regulations appear to be constitutionally valid.


The new regulations apply to an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 out-of-state vehicles driving through California, and 58,000 California trucks.


The California Air Resources Board adopted new pollution standards in December because a 1998 agreement and a voluntary program promoted by manufacturers didn't remove so-called smog defeat devices fast enough from diesel trucks.


The devices allow the engines to meet pollution requirements when trucks are inspected -- but exceed the limits when trucks travel at highway speeds.


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"I think they wasted a lot of money trying to postpone a very solid attempt to clean the air here," said Deputy Attorney General William Brieger, who argued the case.


Removing the devices from California trucks alone would trim pollution equivalent to that created by 1 million cars, the air board said. Clean air advocates want the regulations, if they stand, to spread nationwide.


Attorneys for Caterpillar Inc., the lead plaintiff, did not return telephone messages.


Caterpillar, Cummins Inc., Mack Trucks Inc. and Volvo Powertrain Corp. said they've already paid the state $37 million in civil penalties and other costs. Recalling trucks simply to replace the devices would cost truck owners millions of dollars in downtime for the replacement and new inspections, the companies argued.


The 1998 settlement required manufacturers to replace the defeat devices only when the heavy-duty engines were overhauled, which happened far less frequently than regulators expected.


A year ago, the air resources board agreed to a plan for the industry to voluntarily reach 35 percent compliance by last November and 100 percent compliance by 2008.


The board adopted the mandatory regulations when it found only about 18 percent of California-licensed vehicles had upgraded.


Source: Associated Press


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