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Texas Environmentalists Praise Introduction of Diesel Clean-Up Bill

June 16, 2005

Texas Environmentalists Praise Introduction of Diesel Clean-Up Bill

Senator Hutchison co-sponsors major environmental legislation

(Austin, Texas) Texas environmentalists praised the introduction of   bipartisan federal legislation to further reduce harmful emissions from existing diesel engines. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2005 (DERA) would establish a national grant and loan program that will distribute $1 billion over five years to states and other organizations for diesel emission reduction projects and programs that improve air quality and public health and help areas come into attainment for the new air quality standards. The program is very similar to the Texas Emissions Reductions Program, or TERP, developed in 2001.   Developed with environmental, industry and public officials, the legislation complements Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations now being implemented that address diesel fuel and new diesel engines.

Reducing diesel emissions is pivotal in the effort to clean the nation’s air.   On-road heavy duty diesel vehicles, such as transit buses and garbage trucks, and non-road diesel vehicles, such as construction equipment and tractors, account for roughly half of the nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from mobile sources nationwide.  These emissions contribute to ozone formation and fine particulate matter, and they contain numerous other chemicals that are listed by EPA as hazardous air pollutants.

“Texans are feeling the impacts of diesel particle pollution with an estimated 879 preventable deaths and more than 25,348 asthma attacks attributed annually to diesel exhaust,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Fortunately, the technology to clean up exists and this legislation would help make these programs a reality for Texans today. Texas passed a similar program in 2001, which has proven to be one of the cheapest ways to reduce pollution in Texas. Not only do these types of pollution reduction programs reduce ozone, they also reduce fine particles and other toxic air emissions.”

EPA has finalized diesel fuel and new engine regulations that will reduce emissions from new diesel buses, freight trucks and new non-road diesel equipment by more than 80 percent from 2000 levels.   Unfortunately, the full benefits of EPA’s rules will not be realized until 2030 because of the long lifetime of the 11 million existing engines. Diesel engines used to power school buses, trucks and railroads, agriculture processes and emergency response vehicles can last for hundreds of thousands of miles over a lifetime of up to 30 years.

In the meantime, EPA has designated 495 counties nationally and six metropolitan centers in Texas as non-attainment areas for the new ozone air quality standards.  Currently, state and local governments are developing plans to meet the new, fast approaching deadlines for the air quality standards – but without federal assistance, many will fall short.

In order to help states and communities meet these standards and reduce exposure to harmful diesel emissions, a voluntary diesel retrofit initiative is needed to substantially reduce emissions from our aging diesel fleets. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2005 establishes national and state-level grant and loan programs to promote the reduction of diesel emissions. The legislation:

  • Authorizes $1 billion over five years;
  • Provides that 70 percent of the funds are distributed by EPA;
  • Allocates 20 percent of funds to states to develop retrofit programs with an additional 10 percent available as an incentive for states to match the federal dollars being provided;
  • Establishes priorities for projects – such as those that are more cost-effective and affect the most amount of people – and focuses the federal program on public fleets; and,
  • Includes provisions to help develop new technologies, encourage more action through non-financial incentives, and require EPA to report on the success of the program.

DERA is based on the understanding that existing engines can benefit from technology that “retrofits” or replaces older engines. In doing so, cost-effective emissions reductions can be provided for these fleets and dramatically accelerate the public health benefits.

In the near future, states must develop State Implementation Plans to achieve ozone and particulate matter reductions to meet the new air quality standards. This legislation gives states and communities the opportunity and flexibility to design programs to fit their own needs. This legislation would help bring counties into attainment by encouraging the retrofitting or replacement of diesel engines, which would substantially reduce diesel emissions that contribute significantly to ozone and particulate matter.

EPA estimates that this $1 billion program would leverage an additional $500 million, leading to a net benefit of almost $20 billion, with a reduction of about 70,000 tons of particulate matter. This is a 13-to-1 cost-benefit ratio.

“It is clear that cleaning up diesel engines will have a beneficial impact on air quality, our economy and most importantly public health,” said Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition. “We applaud Senator Hutchison and the co-sponsors of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act of 2005 for their leadership and we offer our full support to make this the law of the land.”