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State rolls back diesel pollution limits

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State officials are taking a step back from reducing air pollution.

The California Air Resources Board is planning on rolling back diesel emission limits for trucks, buses, bulldozers, backhoes and other construction equipment.

The move will “extend relief to businesses, particularly the construction industry, which is really suffering,” said Karen Caesar, board spokeswoman.

The board also reports that initial estimates for emissions from off-road diesel engines were too high.

A new analysis by the state [PDF], which includes figures obtained during the recession, shows an “80 percent reduction in emissions from what had previously been estimated, with about half of this reduction the result of the recession, and about half to changes in inventory methods.”

But health experts and clean technology manufacturers are crying foul.

They point to the board’s own estimates that nearly 9,200 Californians die every year as a result of breathing polluted and sooty air. And they site estimates from the Southern California Air Quality Management District that suggest the rollbacks could increase these deadly emissions by 30 percent in the Los Angeles area alone.

The new proposal will eliminate requirements for existing diesel-powered construction fleets to reduce emissions. It will also drop the state’s mandate to retrofit an estimated 250,000 off-road diesel-powered engines with filters that have shown to reduce emissions by 90 percent. 

These actions will prove a “mortal danger to a fast-growing clean technology sector that supports more than 4,000 green jobs and counting in California alone,” said Joe Kubsh, executive director of the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association.

According to Kubsh’s association, more than $2 billion has already been invested in the clean-diesel technology. And these new rules will kill new investment, as well as the industry.

And critics say the rules go against the spirit of the state’s landmark climate change law, AB 32, which was touted for building a green economy in California.

The Air Resources Board will discuss the new proposal on Dec. 16 in Sacramento.

Here are some of the specifics of the new proposal, from an Air Resources Board report:

The proposed amendments to the off-road regulation delay the initial compliance date for all fleets by four years, provide a path to compliance without any required retrofits, simplify the regulation, and lower the costs of the regulation significantly while still maintaining progress toward clean air. More specifically, these amendments would:

  • Delay first compliance date until no earlier than January 1, 2014, for all fleets.
  • The initial compliance dates for medium and small fleets would be delayed until
  • Jan. 1, 2017, and Jan. 1, 2019, respectively
  • Combine PM and NOx requirements to dramatically simplify the regulation and reduce the number of annual requirements
  • Allow turnover in lieu of retrofitting
  • Lower annual requirements to clean up engines to no more than 5 to 10 percent of a fleet’s horsepower (down from 28 to 30 percent)
  • Provide significant credit for early retrofits to incentivize early actions
  • Increase low use threshold from 100 to 200 hours annually, allowing more vehicles to be defined as low-use (and therefore exempt from control requirements)
  • Provide simpler compliance option for the smallest fleets, those with less than 500 horsepower
  • Achieve more NOx reductions in later years by requiring more turnover to the newest, cleanest engines starting in 2017.

 

Filed under: Environment, Daily Report

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