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CARB Announces Plan to Expand Zero-Emission Requirement for Transport Refrigeration Units

Key Takeaways

  • What happened: On January 22, 2021, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced plans to impose zero-emission requirements on truck, trailer, railcar, and shipping container Transport Refrigeration Units (TRUs) sold or operated in California.

  • Who’s impacted: (1) Manufacturers and distributors of TRUs sold in California; (2) nationwide operators of long-haul tractor trailer TRUs and railcar TRUs that may enter California; and (3) owners of truck terminal facilities in California where TRUs are operated.

  • Actions that stakeholders should take: Stakeholders should look out for upcoming CARB notice-and-comment opportunities and provide input on the proposed regulations.  TRU manufacturers and operators with equipment that may be sold or operated in California should examine the proposed requirements and prepare to comply, or consider challenging the anticipated rules.  Stakeholders should also monitor other Clean Air Act Section 177 states who may elect to adopt the new California standards.

On September 23, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20 directing CARB to develop policies to achieve zero emissions in off-road vehicles, equipment, and operations by 2035.  The order sets a goal for all in-state sales of new passenger vehicles and trucks in California to be zero emission by 2035 and directs CARB to develop and propose regulations to meet this target.

For fleet operators, the order requires CARB to promulgate regulations for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, with the goal of 100% of the fleet transitioning to zero-emission vehicles by 2045 and all drayage trucks being zero emission by 2035.  Correspondingly, the order also instructs CARB to develop strategies in coordination with other state agencies, local agencies, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to transition off-road vehicles and equipment operations in California to achieve zero emissions by 2035.

On January 22, 2021, CARB staff issued an “Additional Information Document,” which identifies new planned requirements for mobile source TRUs under the Executive Order.  The document explains that CARB’s initial draft concept for TRUs applied only to truck TRUs, and under the Executive Order will be expanded to other TRU categories, including TRUs for domestic shipping containers, railcars, trailers, and generator sets.  CARB staff intends to propose a first round of amendments to the TRU Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) in the fall of 2021.Significantly, these amendments will capture both operators and manufacturers. The requirements for operators and their fleets will be limited not only to trucks operated in California, but to trucks based outside of California. Specifically, CARB has indicated that it intends to address the following key regulatory elements:

  • Deadlines for TRU Manufacturers. By December 31, 2022:

    • Newly manufactured truck, trailer, and domestic shipping container TRUs to use refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) less than or equal to 2,200, and;

    • All model year 2023 and newer trailer, domestic shipping container, railcar, and generator set TRUs to meet Ultra-Low-Emission standards.

  • Deadlines for TRU Owners and Operators. By December 31, 2023:

    • Facility owners to register with CARB, pay fees, and submit reports to CARB;

    • TRU owners to register all TRUs, including those based outside of California, pay fees, and attach a CARB compliance label to TRUs;

    • Truck TRU fleets to transition to zero emissions at 15% per year for 7 years, and;

    • All truck TRUs operating in California to be zero emission by December 31, 2029. 

CARB may give compliance extensions to truck TRUs if manufacturers cannot meet the December 31, 2029 target to become zero emission due to infrastructure delays.  CARB plans to address trailer, railcar, and shipping container TRUs in a second rulemaking in 2023-2024. 

© 2021 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 41

About this Author

Anthony Michaels Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Anthony provides successful resolution of complex environmental disputes.

Anthony represents clients as lead counsel in high-stakes environmental litigation in federal and state courts and before arbitrators, with a focus on pesticides and biotechnology and mobile-source air matters. In each case, he identifies and implements a strategy designed to achieve the client’s business goals in a timely and cost-effective manner, whether through a favorable judicial ruling, negotiated settlement, or regulatory solution. 

Anthony employs a balanced and principled approach to complex...

Thomas Richichi Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Tom has 30 years of experience litigating in state and federal trial courts.

He has served as lead counsel in numerous cases at the appellate level, with representations including arguments before the various federal circuits and the United States Supreme Court. Tom's experience includes matters involving environmental, international, transportation, human health risk, and consumer products issues. He has served as lead counsel on numerous complex litigation and enforcement matters involving private parties, state and federal agencies, and the U.S. Department of Justice and its...

Grant Tolley Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Grant Tolley maintains a diverse environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors. 

Grant joined the firm following his graduation from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Prior to joining Beveridge & Diamond, Grant served as a law clerk for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and worked as a student attorney for the Institute for Public Representation, Environmental Litigation Clinic, where he prepared an amicus brief in support of EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Update in a challenge pending before...

Nicole J. Waxman Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC

Nicole focuses on complex environmental litigation and a diverse array of regulatory matters.

Nicole untangles complex environmental law matters into manageable tasks to ensure that clients achieve their desired outcomes. She has experience with a variety of issues arising under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and handles regulatory compliance issues related to mobile source emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Prior to joining B&D, Nicole clerked in the civil litigation practice area of a mid-Atlantic law firm....