Clean Fuels Alliance America Sues EPA Over Phase 3 Heavy-Duty Emissions Rule

Group Contends Agency Favored EVs Instead of Trucks That Can Run on Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

The Clean Fuels Alliance America filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for adopting a heavy-duty truck regulation that the group claims fails to evaluate the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel as tools to meet stricter emission standards.

“In the final rule, EPA evaluated a range of potential alternative fuel and engine configurations for 2027-2032 heavy duty vehicles. However, the agency specifically declined to consider biodiesel and renewable diesel in combination with existing engines that are already widely available,” the Clean Fuels Alliance declared.

The court is being asked to review the EPA’s final Phase 3 greenhouse gas emissions standards rule. Announced in March, the rule imposes stringent GHG emissions limits on heavy-duty vehicles through a phased-in approach for commercial vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032. The program is viewed by critics as an effort to compel a radical shift away from traditional internal combustion engines to technologies such as electric and fuel cell trucks that remain in their infancy for commercial users.

The Clean Fuels Alliance is the U.S. trade association representing the biodiesel, renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel supply chain, including producers, feedstock suppliers and fuel distributors. The lawsuit was filed June 18 in the District of Columbia Circuit Court.

The same day, EPA was hit with a similar lawsuit in the same court. This one was filed by the American Petroleum Institute, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, National Corn Growers Association and American Farm Bureau Federation. API Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ryan Meyers said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of consumers who rely on commercial trucks to deliver goods daily.

“The EPA is forcing a switch to technology that simply does not presently exist for these kinds of vehicles — and even if it were someday possible, it will almost certainly have consequences for your average American. This is sadly yet another example of this administration pushing unpopular policy mandates that lack statutory authority, and we look forward to holding them accountable in court,” Meyers said.

Recently the American Transportation Research Institute issued a report analyzing the benefits of using renewable diesel trucks as an alternative to battery-electric trucks, which it projected to cost six times more than trucks powered by biofuel. ATRI estimated that switching to battery-electric vehicles for longhaul trucking would cost over $1 trillion in infrastructure and vehicle purchase costs over 15 years. In contrast, similar GHG emissions reductions can be achieved with renewable diesel that would amount to a more cost-effective price tag of $203 billion and can be deployed immediately in trucks without modifications, according to ATRI.

Paul Winters, Clean Fuels Alliance director of public affairs and federal communications, told Transport Topics, “EPA’s reasoning for ignoring biodiesel and renewable diesel was arbitrary. The agency claimed it was not evaluating fuels and engine technology combinations, but it clearly did so for other fuels. Technology for using 100% biodiesel and/or renewable diesel is available today and is growing in use. EPA instead put its thumb on the scale in favor of fuels and engine designs that may not be widely available by 2032 — the time frame of the rule.” Winters noted that the lawsuit was approved by the Clean Fuels Alliance board.

“Farmers rely on heavy-duty trucks to transport livestock long distances, and they choose the most efficient routes to ensure the animals in their care remain on the vehicle for as little time as possible,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau. “Unfortunately, heavy-duty vehicles that are powered by batteries have short ranges and require hours to charge. Impractical regulations will extend the amount of time on the road, putting the health and safety of drivers and livestock at risk if they need to stop for long periods of time to charge.”

OOIDA President Todd Spencer added, “This rule would devastate the reliability of America’s supply chain and ultimately increase costs for consumers.”

EPA issued a fact sheet on the Phase 3 ruling describing it as the “most protective set of EPA regulations ever for the on-road sector. …This means that the standards can be met with a diverse range of heavy-duty vehicle technologies, including advanced internal combustion engine vehicles, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.” However, a list of nontraditional vehicles didn’t include modern diesel-powered heavy trucks that can/do run on biofuel (renewable diesel or biodiesel) without any modifications to lower emissions.

California is consuming the lion’s share of the nation’s output of renewable diesel as its go-to fuel to remove GHG emissions because of the state’s push for stringent air quality regulations for vehicles.

Originally shared by Transport Topics, June 27, 2024. Title updated for clarity and purpose, June 29, 2024.

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