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23 governors join California in opposing Trump mileage standards

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The Trump administration has threatened to challenge California's authority to set its own mileage standards, which are followed by about a dozen states. (FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON  — Citing climate-damaging tailpipe emissions, 23 governors signed a pledge Tuesday backing California leaders in their showdown with the Trump administration over its plans to relax vehicle mileage standards .

The pledge by leaders of states and Puerto Rico, most of them Democrats, comes as the administration seeks to ease tougher mileage standards laid out by former President Barack Obama as part of his efforts against climate change. Legal challenges to Trump’s policy proposal threaten to disrupt the auto industry for years, and an influential auto industry trade group is renewing its appeal for the compromise.

The administration says American consumers increasingly want bigger, less-efficient SUVs and pickup trucks. It argues that demanding ever-more fuel-efficient vehicles will drive up automobile costs and keep less-safe, older vehicles on the road longer; opponents challenge that claim.

The administration is expected to release its final rules on the mileage changes in late summer or early fall. California and other states have promised litigation to block them.

The governors’ pledge commits to sticking broadly to the pre-President Donald Trump mileage goals, a program of annual tightening in mileage standards that reduce climate-changing carbon emissions. Transportation and the power sector are the largest sources of heat-trapping fossil fuel pollution in the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Michael Abboud said the administration was “pursuing one national standard to provide safe, affordable vehicles for consumers while also improving environmental outcomes.”

At stake is California’s ability to set its own emissions and fuel economy standards, a power granted by Congress in the Clean Air Act to combat the state’s smog problems in the 1970s. The state at one time had more stringent standards than federal ones, but the two sides voluntarily synced their standards under Obama.

The Trump administration has threatened to challenge California’s authority to set its own mileage standards, which are followed by about a dozen states.

The pledge says governors “will not compromise on our responsibility to protect the health of our communities, our climate, and the savings consumers stand to gain at the pump.” It promises “additional concrete actions to fulfill this duty and defend against any threats.”

Besides California and Puerto Rico, the pledge was signed by the leaders of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

The commitment from the states — representing a sizable share of the U.S. car market — underscores prospects for years of legal challenges and regulatory uncertainty for automakers if Trump moves ahead on the mileage freeze.

Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, urged automakers to get behind the states in the interests of cutting carbon emission and advancing cleaner-burning vehicles.

“Since the Trump administration seems determined to put all environmental progress into reverse, automakers should make clear that they will not support this rollback by working directly with California and these 23 states to drive automobile technology into the future,” Carper said in a statement.

But an auto industry group made clear it had worries about both sides’ position in the dispute.

“It is untenable to face a marketplace with different standards in different states, but it also untenable to face standards that rise so high that only a handful of electric vehicles can achieve them,” said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

“That is why automakers keep urging the federal government and states to find a middle ground that raises standards year over year while aligning with market demand.”

Trump has pushed automakers to back his approach. Last month, major automakers instead appealed for the administration to return to talks with California.

California Gov. Gavin Newson indicated he wasn’t optimistic about any breakthroughs with the administration.

“I don’t sense they’re sincere in their commitment to sit down and negotiate,” he said, and cited the administration’s overall backing for the country’s oil and gas industry.

 

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The Nation

Mexican officials uncover smuggling ring using truck disguised as freight companies

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Some trucks used in the smuggling ring had air conditioning units, but didn't use them when carrying migrants. (FOTOSEARCH)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials said Monday they have uncovered an industrial-scale migrant smuggling ring using tractor-trailer rigs disguised as freight deliveries for major companies.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities found a tractor-trailer disguised with the logo of a major grocery store chain. But instead of groceries, it was carrying about 150 migrants.

‘The (grocery) company has filed a complaint, because it was fake, it was camouflage to transport migrants,” Lopez Obrador said.

In June, Mexico detected five freight trucks carrying 925 migrants, almost all from Central America. Some of those trucks bore the logos of well-known firms, though it was not clear if those trucks were also fakes or had been used illegally by drivers without the companies’ knowledge.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that four or five of the freight trucks found in June belonged to the same independent trucking company, based in central Mexico.

Ebrard said the company operated trucks equipped with air conditioning units, but didn’t turn on the ventilation when carrying migrants.

That led officials to believe it was just a matter of time before migrants would die aboard the overcrowded vehicles.

“The biggest concern is that there is going to be a tragedy, that is what we don’t want,” said Lopez Obrador.

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The Nation

3 Estes Express employees steal $23,000 worth of water heaters

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff’s Department says they have arrested three employees of a delivery company, after discovering $23,000 worth of stolen inventory in one of their homes.

Officials became suspicious when some retail stores reported that not all of the products supposedly being shipped from Home Depot’s West Columbia distribution center were reaching their final destination.

An investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and officials from Home Depot and Estes Express Line led authorities to get a search warrant for the home of Cody Bessinger. That is when they found more than $23,000 worth of stolen water heaters that Bessinger and two other thieves reportedly accumulated over one years time.

Authorities arrested Bessinger, along with Joe Gunter and Chris Shumpert, who were both managerial employees for Estes Express Line.

This begs the question…”why water heaters”?

Could it be that besides working for Estes Express Line, these guys had a clandestine plumbing operation on the side?

You might even say these three men are in hot water.

 

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The Nation

FMCSA seeks comments on definitions of agri, livestock commodities in HOS rules

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The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the Hours of Service rule. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)  

WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Monday said it is seeking public comment on revising agricultural commodity or livestock definitions in Hours of Service regulations.

The agency said it worked closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this effort to provide clarity for the nation’s farmers and commercial drivers.

The FMCSA has received several requests recently from agricultural and livestock haulers seeking exemption from certain aspects of the HOS rule.

“The agriculture industry is vital to our nation and we look forward to receiving input that will help clarify these definitions, improve safety and offer additional flexibility to farmers and commercial drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“The current regulations impose restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Chao on revising these regulations.”

Currently, during harvesting and planting seasons as determined by each state, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, are exempt from the HOS requirements from the source of the commodities to a location within a 150-air-mile radius from the source.

The advanced rule (ANPRM) authored by FMCSA was prompted by indications that the current definition of these terms may not be understood or enforced consistently when determining whether the HOS exemption applies.

“FMCSA has worked closely with the agriculture industry and USDA in crafting this advanced notice. We have heard concerns from the industry, and we are acting,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez.  “We encourage all CMV stakeholders, especially those involved in transporting agricultural commodities and livestock, to provide valuable feedback on how the current definitions impact safety, compliance, and enforcement.”

FMCSA continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate confusion and align the agencies’ agricultural commodity definitions.

The American agriculture industry contributes more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy.

The FMCSA said in a news release that the Trump administration has been working to strengthen the agriculture industry by streamlining regulations, bolstering farm programs, and renegotiating the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to improve access to Canadian and Mexican markets.

Additional information on the ANPRM, including how to submit comments to the Federal Register docket, is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/hours-service-drivers-definition-agricultural-commodity.

In June 2018, FMCSA announced regulatory guidance for transportation of agricultural commodities. Learn more at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/regulatory-guidance-concerning-transportation-agricultural-commodities.

 

 

 

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