"The attempt to cut a closed-door deal with industry on a key public health regulation EPA and the President have repeatedly claimed to support is part of a disturbing pattern: the administration praises key environmental regulations, then turns around and uses industry lawsuits as an excuse to seek weakening of those very same protections," said Howard Fox of Earthjustice, attorney for several public health and environmental organizations who have opposed industry's claims by intervening in the suits. "They claim to love this regulation, but unfortunately their motto seems to be 'you always hurt the one you love.' Rollback of this key public health initiative would be a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lives and health are damaged by pollution from diesel trucks and buses."
At issue is a January 2001 regulation requiring cleanup of pollution from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses, starting in 2007. After reviewing this initiative of the previous administration, the new administration repeatedly expressed support for it:
Yesterday, however, with the scheduled oral argument in the Court only a week away, EPA asked the Court to postpone argument on key provisions of the rule. The regulatory provisions at issue set a new, more accurate method for testing diesel emissions under real-world conditions.
"Stronger pollution regulations won't help much if engines don't comply," said Fox. "In the past, EPA has had to sue engine manufacturers, because the agency found their engines were emitting millions of tons of excess nitrogen oxide emissions. The regulation's new way of measuring engine emissions will help put an end to these unacceptable practices."
In yesterday's motion to the Court, EPA announced that it "is currently engaged in settlement negotiations" with industry on this test method, and that industry and EPA "have made considerable progress towards reaching a comprehensive settlement." The agency asks the Court to postpone next week's scheduled argument and put the test-method part of the case on hold. These closed-door settlement talks include not only the January 2001 highway diesel rule (which takes effect in 2007), but also two other rules: a first-phase highway diesel rule (which takes effect in 2004) and a marine diesel engine rule.
Earthjustice is representing American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and US Public Interest Research Group, and is working with Natural Resources Defense Council – all of which have intervened in opposition to industry's lawsuits challenging the January 2001 rule.