California Legislators Push Back Against CARB DPF Rule

On June 11, the California Senate Transportation Committee voted 14-0 in favor of AB 1122, a bill authored by Assemblymember Dr. Jasmeet Bains, which would prevent the California Air Resources Board (CARB) from forcing vessels to install Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) on marine vessels before the devices are certified as safe. A CARB rule, the Commercial Harbor Craft Rule, which is set to take effect in December, would require all marine vessels (except fishing boats) to install such devices to reduce particulate emissions.

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) called the bill opposing the CARB rule “a major milestone for mariner safety in California.” The marine industry has testified that requiring marine vessels to install untested DPFs poses safety hazards and could result in the cessation of much of the marine traffic in the state. When DPFs were mandated for trucks, they caused a number of vehicle fires and were even implicated in some wildfires.

Kyle Burleson, director of state advocacy for AWO,  said in his testimony to the committee:

“We are asking that before [DPFs] are required to be installed that a standard safety process is followed. Whenever new equipment is installed on a vessel, a third-party auditor vets the product to ensure it is safe and will not catch fire under duress. For whatever reason, CARB has bypassed these safety experts.”

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Burleson added, “In our 80-year history, our trade association has never asked a legislature to intervene to protect lives on board a vessel, but that is what is needed because CARB did not act before, and we do not expect them to prioritize mariner and workplace safety in the future.”

Members of the California federal delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, expressed their concern at the Commercial Harbor Craft Rule updates, and a joint letter from maritime unions supported AB 1122 to fix the rule. The California Labor Federation has also pledged its support.

Next, the bill is supposed to go to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.