By Jesse Lanum
January 9, 2010
The trucking industry is preparing for the first of a series of crippling regulations dealt them courtesy of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), whose goal has been to combat the side effects potentially caused by diesel emissions. Over the past several months, the science behind these regulations has come under increased scrutiny, specifically due to the credential fraud committed by one of ARB’s lead researchers.
All Drayage diesel trucks older than 1994 must be retired from service. Those built between 1994 and 2003 must undergo a costly retrofit — a soot trap ranging in price from $12,000 to $25,000, depending on the age of the vehicle.
Leo Kay, the Communication Director for the ARB, said that there are approximately 20,000 affected trucks in California. ARB offered $11 million in grants for the affected truckers. Each trucker could potentially receive $5,000 toward the retrofit of their diesel. The regulations were set to go into effect on January 1, 2010; however, there was not enough money to go around, and truckers were recently afforded two weeks grace.
The diesel particulate matter the regulations is meant to curb what is known as PM2.5. According to ARB’s research, PM2.5 is known to cause premature deaths.
Len Serpa, owner of the Len Serpa dump truck company in Martinez, said that his company will be heavily affected by the regulation. “We have only one 2008 truck,” said Serpa. “That would be the only truck to meet standards. We would have to throw the rest out.”
Serpa is a member of California Dump Truck Owners Association (CDTOA), which has called into question the credentials of the ARB scientists responsible for demonstrating the dangers of diesel emissions. The organization discovered that one of the lead authors had lied about having a doctorate from UC Davis. ARB reported that the credibility of the peer reviewed work on PM2.5 was buttressed by the doctorate of Hien Tran. They later admitted to discovering that Tran did not have the doctorate. In fact, he had only recently purchased a doctorate from Thornhill, an unaccredited online university, according to consumerfraudreporting.org.
Tran was reportedly demoted but retains a position with ARB. His scientific work cited in moving forward with the regulations will be redone in the future, but the regulations will not be delayed in the interim.
In response, Lee Brown, the Executive Director at CDTOA, wrote a letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger asking him to call for an immediate investigation of ARB.
“The scientific basis for CARB’s on-road diesel regulations is the October 24, 2008 CARB Staff Report on PM2.5 and Premature Deaths in California by lead author Hien T. Tran. However, lead author Tran admittedly misrepresented his qualifications and education, as he did not in fact have a Ph.D. from UC Davis as he had originally claimed,” Brown wrote.
Schwarzenegger has not yet responded to his December 9 letter.
Brown drafted another letter to the President of the UC system, asking him to release ARB scientist and UC Berkeley professor Dr. Michael Jerret’s data on PM2.5 harm. Brown claims that Jarrett has been secretive with his work; moreover, the data he is using comes from the East Coast and has been unjustly extrapolated to California.
Dr. James Enstrom, an epidemiologist at UCLA with thirty-five years of experience, is the only scientist to have completed the most comprehensive study on the effects of PM2.5 in California. Dr. Enstrom found a risk factor of zero for Californians with respect to PM2.5. Instead of using those results, the ARB scientists used a study that took place in the Netherlands, among others, to come to their findings.
“The association [of premature death and PM2.5] is extremely weak by epidemiological standards. The initial findings were not supported by subsequent studies,” Enstrom said. “A lot of particulate matter in California is just road dust or from forest fires,” Enstrom added.
Enstrom has written a number of letters to Jerrett as well as other ARB scientists, hoping to understand why they have chosen to bypass the only comprehensive state data available, and he has not received a response.
“California has the fourth highest life expectancy in the country,” said Enstrom. “Life expectancy is too high for this to make sense.”
Many of the big trucking fleets were able to update their vehicles for coming regulations, but it has been a different story for small businesses and lone owner/operators. Those who support their families by driving their own trucks are forced to ante up or be cut out of business.
Brown said that ninety-five percent of the trucks in his organization would be off the road with the coming regulation. In 2007, CDTOA membership was at 1400. As of today, membership has dropped to 800.
“What does cause tremendous health affects is unemployment,” said Enstrom
There are more emissions restrictions coming, and it doesn’t stop with trucks. Tractors, boats and construction equipment are on the chopping block as well. Kay said that, by 2020, California will have reduced diesel emissions by eighty-five percent.
Due to the economic downturn, a few of the regulations affecting tractors and construction equipment have been delayed, but they’re not delaying the restrictions to loosen the noose on California workers. The slowdown of industry is essentially good news for emissions regulators.
“A lot of people aren’t working right now, so we may be reducing diesel emissions enough just by having those trucks off the road,” said Kay.
Enough refers to federally mandated restrictions of state diesel emissions. In order to be awarded federal money for highway repair, Kay said that California must cut diesel emissions.
“We’re trying to balance the need to protect the environment and the economy,” Kay said.