Air Resources Board gets OK to regulate emissions on big-rig engines

California’s air quality cops have scored an important victory with a state appellate ruling Monday that they have the legal right to regulate the emissions equipment on heavy-duty engines.

The Chicago-based Engine Manufacturers Association challenged California Air Resources Board regulations requiring manufacturers to obtain sample emissions from heavy-duty engines equipped with aging on-board diagnostic systems, or OBD systems, and test them to ensure they’re functioning properly.

The challenged regulations also require ARB to order the recall and repair of engines with low-performing OBD systems, under certain conditions.

Most engines of any size in vehicles certified for sale in California must be equipped with an OBD system. The systems, through the use of onboard computers, detect malfunctions of emissions equipment and illuminate an indicator light to notify the driver.

The requirement for heavy-duty engines includes those from 2010 and subsequent years used in long-distance big rigs.

The manufacturers’ complaint sought a ruling that the regulations exceed ARB’s authority and thus are invalid.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang declared the regulations invalid.

But a three-justice panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento reversed Chang on Monday, finding that “the Legislature has granted (ARB) broad authority … to reduce air pollution caused by motor vehicle emissions … subject to cost-effectiveness and feasibility limitations.”

The justices sent the case back to Chang with directions to rescind her decision in favor of the manufacturers.

The panel’s unanimous 25-page published opinion was authored by Associate Justice Andrea Lynn Hoch, with the concurrences of Acting Presiding Justice William J. Murray Jr. and Associate Justice Elena J. Duarte.

In an email, ARB spokesman Stanley Young hailed the opinion for its affirmation of the agency’s authority to regulate “emissions from ALL vehicles.”

Vehicle emissions are the largest single source of air pollution in California, according to state data.

The Engine Manufacturers Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.