Employers fearful of new greenhouse gas regulations

As a Californian, owner of a trucking company in the Inland Empire with more than 37 years of experience with 84 employees, I want to do my part to help clean the air that all our families breathe. For the past several years, California’s truck owners have worked closely with the state Legislature and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to find practical, realistic ways to clean up diesel trucks. At Jack Jones Trucking, which was started by my father in 1971, we’ve tried to do our part. We even moved our operation into a new “green” terminal.

We’ve made this commitment because like you, California’s diesel truck and bus owners live and work in California and we want to do our part to protect and preserve the environment. In fact, we agreed more than 17 years ago to use the cleanest fuel in the nation in order to clean California’s air. Trucks are smoke-tested more often than people smog test their vehicles.

But remember, we are also employers who are concerned about the impact that the ARB’s new diesel regulation will have on jobs and California’s economy. The ARB estimates the cost of this regulation to be $5.5 billion. This estimate is in almost all likelihood well below the actual costs.

The ARB’s proposed emissions regulation will be taken up by the Board in Sacramento on December 11th and 12th. Starting in 2010, this proposal would require every diesel truck and bus operating in California (which according the ARB includes “those transiting California roadways from other states and countries”) to be replaced or retrofitted.

This regulation is being proposed at a time when California diesel truck and bus owners are struggling to make ends meet in the most severe economic climate we’ve experienced in decades. Californians are impacted with sky-rocketing diesel prices, rising food costs, record home foreclosures, a 17 year low in housing starts, a credit crisis and an economy in recession.

Like so many business owners in today’s economy we are feeling this impact. My company owns and maintains a fleet of 50 trucks, but due to the economic downturn, I’ve had no choice but to park 12 of them. When our trucks aren’t moving goods, it’s our employees that suffer.

Unfortunately, we have been forced to lay off some of our valued employees. Still, at this point my company isn’t feeling the blow nearly as much as the 3,000 trucking companies across the nation that have already declared bankruptcy or even the larger trucking companies that are closing hundreds of terminals throughout the nation this year.

Governor Schwarzenegger has repeatedly called for a balance between our environmental needs and our economic necessities. That is why I have joined a coalition called Driving Toward a Cleaner California that represents thousands of small businesses, construction contractors, owner-operators, non-profit organizations and others impacted by the ARB rule. Our goal is to strike a balance in crafting an alternative proposal to the current ARB proposed regulation.

The alternative regulation, which has been submitted to the ARB for review, would achieve the emissions reductions targeted by the ARB to improve the state’s air quality, while providing much-needed flexibility for truck owners to comply based on a variety of factors including mileage, type and use of the vehicle and the best use of available technology.

My company has been listed in the Inland Empire Business Press Top 100 Woman Owned Businesses each year since 1996. And unlike what we see in Washington DC, I’m not asking for a bailout.

Instead, I’m joining forces with other diesel owners around the state to ask for a reasonable schedule to comply with air quality during this recession without having to close my doors and put priceless employees out on the streets.

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