Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What’s $6-$10 billion among friends?

For the last week, the California Air Resources Board has taken several very public shots, some by its own board members.

It seems CARB’s researcher for its Truck and Bus Regulation, aka the retrofit rule, faked having a doctorate and lied to his own employers while trying to cover up his lack of a Ph.D. The Truck and Bus Rule will begin to be officially enforced in 2012, though most small-business owner-operators won’t have to replace trucks until 2014.

CARB’s own estimates have placed the rule’s cost impact on the transportation industry at between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Hien Tran is still employed by CARB as a researcher, even after it was proven that his Ph.D. came through the mail.

At least two CARB board members have come out and criticized CARB Chairman Mary Nichols for not revealing the matter to most of the board, although some of the board was informed before it voted to approve the regulation in December 2008.

For Land Line’s account, click here.

Nichols has argued that Tran’s transgressions don’t change the science supporting CARB’s rules.

It’s the research, however, that some are discrediting more than Tran himself.

Lois Henry, a columnist with the Bakersfield Californian, points out in a recent column that Tran’s “slap dashery” may conceal a weak link between particulate matter and deaths attributed to diesel exhaust – the linch pin behind many of CARB’s diesel truck emissions rules.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston has asked CARB to suspend its pending enforcement emissions regulations for port drayage trucks and reefer units. A complete account of that story is available here.

The controversy has even sparked an apparent feud between two major California newspapers, as evidenced here.

In the California Assembly, there is a reported third effort to suspend the 2006 law California Assembly Bill 32 – which gave CARB authority to regulate greenhouse gases and form regs such as the port drayage rule.

In November, former California Gov. and current Attorney General Jerry Brown told Legal Newsline that over-regulation is threatening California, particularly as it relates to environmental and workplace laws and regulations.

“The whole framework of law is crucial for the operations of business enterprises,” Brown said. “But when over prescriptive, it creates a huge and growing amount of overhead, and it does seem that we’re reaching the point of counter-productivity.”

On Wednesday, CARB is scheduled to hold its monthly meeting. An agency spokesman told Land Line Now’s Reed Black last week that CARB will likely revisit its Truck and Bus rule, and may delay or alter the rule as it stands today.

The agency also will likely approve doling out about $10 million in research project funding – the kind of research that CARB will use to justify regulations and millions in enforcement fines over the next several years.

Time will tell if Tran’s name will be associated with any of the research, or if peer review of evidence reported will be conducted properly and differing opinions will be seriously considered.