EPA Announces Plans to Cut Diesel Fuel Pollutants
By Shane Robinson
On May 17, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner announced the agency’s plans for major changes in the regulation of heavy-duty trucks, buses, and the diesel fuel that powers them. While controversial, this potential change in policy could be a significant step in helping cities solve air quality problems related to ozone (smog) and other pollutants.
The proposed regulations are aimed at reducing emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) and harmful particulate matter (PM), or soot, by 90 percent. According to EPA, by 2007 when the regulations would begin to go into effect, up to 38% of the NOx pollution and 21% of PM pollution in major cities will come directly from the heavy-duty vehicles being targeted by this proposal. "Soot and smog pollution," said Browner, "are scientifically associated with 15,000 deaths annually, and a million cases of respiratory problems each year."
While the new regulations would not address farm, construction, or other off-road vehicles, there is opposition from some industry sectors. National petroleum and trucking industry groups have come out against the proposal, arguing that there could be inflationary economic impacts. The EPA, however, argues that diesel fuel prices will increase by only 3-4 cents per gallon and that the economic impact will be minimal.
Most diesel trucks and buses do not use pollution control devices such as catalytic converters that have been used on cars for over 25 years. EPA estimates that older technologies like these, in combination with newer, advanced technologies that will be required on new heavy-duty vehicles, will add only between $1,500 and $2,000 to the current average price of $150,000 per vehicle.
Five public hearings have been scheduled on this issue: June 19th in New York City, June 20th in Chicago, June 22nd in Atlanta, June 27th in Los Angeles, and June 29th in Denver.