The week of November 15 will be a critical one for PMTA in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly because two important issues will see action.
It’s been exactly one year since PennDOT’s P3 Board approved the tolling of interstate bridges in Pennsylvania through a public private partnership. Last November when the initiative was approved, there was no public notice of the details of these projects or even which bridges would be tolled. In fact, the nine bridges to be tolled were not announced by PennDOT until February.
Over the past year, PMTA has pushed back on the Major Bridge P3 Program by pointing out the consequences of tolling for the trucking industry and other businesses in Pennsylvania, the inefficiency of tolling as a means of collecting transportation revenue, and the lack of public notice and debate about the projects. During several testimonies before state legislative committees and member outreach to their lawmakers, PMTA has asked the General Assembly to exert appropriate control over the P3 process. Specifically, any proposed P3 should include sufficient public notice and the opportunity for comment, and any P3 that charges fees should be approved by the legislature, not just an unelected committee at PennDOT.
SB 382, sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc, does just this. Thanks in part to PMTA members’ efforts, SB 382 passed the state Senate earlier this year and is now before the full House of Representatives, where it is scheduled for a final vote the week of November 15. Should it pass, it could return to the state Senate for concurrence the week of December 13.
SB 382 will ensure that PennDOT is accountable to the public and their elected officials for the current bridge tolling project and any future P3 that is proposed, like corridor tolling and congestion tolling. It has been a long process, but the end is in sight.
At the same time, PMTA has been working to raise awareness about the consequences of Pennsylvania adopting California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations on heavy-duty truck emissions. In 2022, trucks with CARB stickers must have manufacturers’ warranties that cover 350,000 miles (up from 150,000) for new trucks. This is increasing the cost of new trucks in Pennsylvania next year and making the state’s businesses uncompetitive with those in surrounding states.
PMTA and several of its members testified in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on November 8 to inform lawmakers about the dire consequences of CARB’s regulations for the trucking industry in Pennsylvania (video available here). Committee members were surprised to learn that the warranty requirement had no environmental impact because owners of trucks must fix emissions system problems, whether or not they are covered by a warranty.
Just before the hearing, on Saturday, November 6, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that the agency would not be enforcing CARB in Pennsylvania until at least July 31, 2023 for heavy-duty trucks. However, the notice contains language noting that it does not prevent third parties from suing truck dealers, manufacturers, or owners if their trucks do not comply with CARB.
Because the only way to prevent lawsuits from being filed over the CARB warranty is to change the law, PMTA is supporting HB 2075, a bipartisan bill introduced on November 10 by Rep. Jerry Knowles. HB 2075 would simply remove CARB emissions requirements for PA heavy-duty trucks and revert to EPA standards. Should DEP decide to enforce CARB for trucks in the future, it would need to do so through the regulatory process, which includes an analysis of the impact and opportunities for public comment.
HB 2075 is scheduled to be voted on in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on Monday, November 15 and will move to the full House should it pass. It is already on the House calendar for consideration later in the week. If it passes the House, it will then move to the Senate and could also be considered the week of December 13.
Both SB 382 (bridge tolling) and HB 2075 (CARB) have been high-priority issues for PTMA. As the final legislative session days of the year approach, the week of November 15 will be an important one, with votes scheduled on both bills. PMTA members who have not done so already are encouraged to contact their state House and Senate members and ask them for their support on both bills.
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