June 16, 2024

State AG Bird visits Adair County; fights California legislation

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, right, meets with Ross Havens, center, and Lillian Nichols Monday during her tour of Nichols Farms.

BRIDGEWATER — Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird learned Monday how the bulls are bred and raised at Nichols Farm and sold to cattle producers. She wants to make sure Iowa’s agriculture products are transported to California without drastically changing the industry.

Bird is from one of several states that have filed a collective lawsuit against the EPA and California for California’s mandate to have only electric-powered semis deliver goods by 2042.

Many Republican attorneys general recently took legal action against the Biden administration and California over new emissions limits for trucks. Nebraska Attorney General Mike Hilgers is leading the group of GOP attorneys general who filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting truck emissions.

A separate lawsuit against California claims a phased-in ban on internal-combustion trucks is unconstitutional and will hurt the U.S. economy.

“Nichols farms is amazing,” Bird said after her visit to the decades old Adair County cattle producer. “There is a connection with the lawsuit. Iowa is a leader in agriculture. I grew up on a farm in Guthrie County. I know that part of my job as AG is defending agriculture, from filing lawsuits like this or fighting for ethanol. We are defending ag in our office.”

EPA officials have said the strict emissions standards will help clean up some of the nation’s largest sources of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The new EPA rules are slated to take effect for model years 2027 through 2032, and the agency has said they will avoid up to 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades. California rules being challenged by Republican attorneys general would ban big rigs and buses that run on diesel from being sold in California starting in 2036.

Emissions restrictions could especially benefit an estimated 72 million people in the U.S. who live near freight routes used by trucks and other heavy vehicles and bear a disproportionate burden of dangerous air pollution, the agency has said.

“Our strategy is to stop California and its illegal mandates,” Bird said. “California can’t even comply with its own mandate. It’s a problem for trucking in Iowa and a big problem for ag. We have food and fuel that needs to be shipped and a lot of it is transported by a truck. If we can’t truck our goods to the markets in California or the ports, farmers won’t be able to sell their wares.”

Bird said she has no problem with people wanting to buy an electric vehicle. Having one state dictate to others about using electric vehicles is different.

“California doesn’t get to dictate what trucking in Iowa does,” she said.

Bird said Iowa is the “heart of the heartland” and Interstate 80 runs through it, the same freeway that truck drivers use to get to California. She said Iowa’s economic stats show 1 out of 13 jobs are related to the trucking industry.

Hilgers in a statement said the EPA and California rules “will devastate the trucking and logistics industry, raise prices for customers, and impact untold number of jobs across Nebraska and the country.”

“There’s not one trucking charging station in the state of Nebraska,” Hilgers said. “Trying to take that industry, which was built up over decades with diesel and fossil fuels-based infrastructure, and transforming it to an electric-based infrastructure – it’s probably not feasible.”

A spokesperson for the EPA declined to comment on the legal challenge to the new rules, citing the pending litigation.

An email seeking comment from California’s Air Resources Board was not immediately answered.

California has been aggressive in trying to rid itself of fossil fuels, passing new rules in recent years to phase out gas-powered cars, trucks, trains and lawn equipment in the nation’s most populous state. Industries, and Republican leaders in other states, are pushing back.

Another band of GOP-led states in 2022 challenged California’s authority to set emissions standards that are stricter than rules set by the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month ruled that the states failed to prove how California’s emissions standards would drive up costs for gas-powered vehicles in their states.

States that joined Nebraska’s latest action against the EPA are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

States that joined Nebraska’s lawsuit against California are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.