Another Lawson lawsuit? John R. Lawson Rock & Oil speaks out against CARB regulations

  (Image: Shutterstock) 

(Image: Shutterstock) 

As the California Air Resources Board (CARB) prepares to finalize the phase 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) standards and amendments to the tractor-trailer GHG regulation, Fresno-based carrier John R. Lawson Rock & Oil has released a statement calling the proposed regulations illegal.

Attorneys representing Lawson Rock & Oil sent a July 18 letter addressing CARB’s failure “to consider the unintended consequences of the Proposed Amendments” as well as a failure “to address the unintended consequences of the Proposed Amendments in the Proposed Modifications -- and various other proposed regulations that impose additional costs on responsible truckers,” leading to an inability “to discharge its duties under the law," as reported by Inside EPA. July 18 also marked the end of a 15-day comment period for board directed staff on the proposed regulations, which were announced in February 2018.

Lawson’s legal team expressed the company’s belief that “new rules will only intensify a current situation where California-based trucking companies face higher costs to comply with CARB rules while out-of-state competitors are able to operate more cheaply because either they do not have to comply or because lax CARB enforcement allows them to evade the regulations without penalty.”

Due to the illegal piecemealing of the review and the determination that “action is exempt from a full environmental analysis and does not require a review of cumulative effects from other regulations,” as well as CARB’s failure to draft a Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment, Lawson’s attorneys further allege that CARB’s phase 2 proposal violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), infringing upon the constitutional dormant commerce clause.

If Lawson Rock & Oil pursues a lawsuit in the coming months, it won’t be their first against CARB. In June 2016, the California Superior Court ruled that 2014 amendments to 2010 emissions standards for on-road heavy duty diesel vehicles were illegal (John R. Lawson Rock & Oil, Inc. v. California Air Resources Board). According to the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, “The court held that CARB had engaged in post hoc environmental review by approving the amendments before it finished its CEQA review...The court said that CARB used an improper baseline when it used existing environmental conditions and ignored the 2010 regulations.”

A January 2018 case before the California appellate court (John R. Lawson Rock & Oil, Inc. v. State Air Resources Board) also found CARB to be in violation of the CEQA and the APA “when it promulgated revised truck and bus regulations that extended compliance deadlines for small fleet operators.”

"Over the past several years, [CARB] has adopted regulations and engaged in unwritten policies creating a perverse regulatory environment that rewards those who fail to comply with [CARB's] regulations while at the same time punishing those who dutifully meet [CARB's] aggressive deadlines," the letter states. “The cumulative effect of these programs and regulations is cost prohibitive on responsible truckers in California who will be required to purchase compliant trucks and extended warranties that will be marked up significantly,” Lawson’s lawyers write.

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