Active: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court asked to restore rule of law in Pennsylvania to Pennsylvanians

George Peters began his trucking company, Peters Brothers, Inc. in 1950 in the small town of Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania, using his only truck to haul livestock. His grandson, Brian Wanner, joined the family business in 1993 as a dispatcher. By that time, his uncle was in charge and the company deployed an entire fleet of refrigerated trucks to haul food from coast to coast.

Brian worked his way up to general manager and took over the business in January 2023 after his uncle retired. Brian proudly manages 72 trucks, 120 freezer trailers, and 85 employees from the company’s original Pennsylvania headquarters, successfully navigating a challenging economy and regulation-heavy industry.

At the same time, Brian is deeply concerned about a new threat facing his company and many other companies throughout Pennsylvania that also use large vehicles. New regulations that pile on expensive emission requirements for new heavy diesel vehicles are about to take effect. Worse still, these regulations didn’t even come from Pennsylvania. They came from California.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board adopted a regulation whereby Pennsylvania incorporates California’s emissions standards for heavy diesel engines. The regulation also has no expiration date, so Peters Brothers and other Pennsylvania trucking companies are forever at the mercy of California regulators whose rules automatically become law in the Commonwealth. This includes a slate of burdensome regulations recently adopted by California’s Air Resources Board that mandate dramatically more stringent emissions standards and expensive extended warranties.

The warranty demand is especially frustrating for outfits like Peters Brothers that have their own in-house mechanics capable of fixing any emissions system issues.

Peters Brothers replaces approximately 13 trucks each year, which means they must pay a huge chunk of extra money for warranties the company neither wants nor needs. This added burden alone has the family reluctantly, but seriously, considering buying their trucks in Wisconsin, where they have another hub.

Pennsylvania basically adopted, wholesale, emissions regulations from California. Such regulation-by-proxy might make life easier for Pennsylvania bureaucrats, but it’s not how law in America is supposed to work. It’s unjust and unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania regulators cannot outsource open-ended rulemaking power to another state. Only the Pennsylvania General Assembly can make law in Pennsylvania, because only the General Assembly speaks for the people it represents, and to whom it is accountable.

Furthermore, letting California call the shots forces regulations on Pennsylvania citizens and businesses without their input, economic analysis, consideration of alternatives, or debate over whether the new standards are even needed in Pennsylvania.

Left unchecked, the automatic rolling incorporation of California emissions standards will creep into more states. In fact, Minnesota and Virginia already have similar provisions on their books.

Democratic accountability is lost whenever a state legislature delegates to regulators open-ended rulemaking powers of the sort claimed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board. This case demonstrates the danger of such open-ended delegations in allowing agencies the latitude to adopt any standard they might like, or, simply to force California’s standards on their own state.

Brian wants to keep his business in Pennsylvania and keep California regulators out. So, he’s fighting back.

Represented at no charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, Brian and Peters Brothers are challenging Pennsylvania’s unlawful regulatory outsourcing to protect their livelihoods and restore democratic accountability for all Pennsylvanians.

What’s At Stake?

  • Only a state’s elected representatives can make laws for residents of that state. A state can’t outsource its lawmaking authority to another state. That’s not how democracy works. And it’s even worse when unelected regulators mindlessly incorporate laws from other states.

Case Timeline

December 12, 2023
Pennsylvania DEP Reply
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
November 30, 2023
PLF Brief in Opposition To Preliminary Objections
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
October 13, 2023
Pennsylvania DEP Preliminary Objections
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
June 13, 2023
Petition for Review
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania