California Rules First in U.S. to Cut Diesel Truck Pollution

SACRAMENTO, California, December 12, 2008 (ENS) - The California Air Resources Board today adopted two regulations aimed at cleaning up harmful emissions from the estimated one million heavy-duty diesel trucks that operate in California. The regulations are the first of their kind in the United States.

Heavy-duty big rigs are the largest remaining source of unregulated diesel emissions, responsible for 32 percent of the smog-forming emissions and nearly 40 percent of the cancer-causing emissions from diesel mobile sources. Other diesel emitters include trains, off-road vehicles and marine engines.

Beginning January 1, 2011, the Statewide Truck and Bus rule will require truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs, with nearly all vehicles to be upgraded by 2014.

Owners also must replace engines older than the 2010 model year according to a staggered implementation schedule that extends from 2012 to 2022.

Also adopted today, the Heavy Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction measure requires long-haul truckers to install fuel efficient tires and aerodynamic devices on their trailers that lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy.

"Today's vote marks a milestone in the history of California's air quality," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "The Board's actions will not only help protect the health of 38 million Californians, they will also ensure that California continues strongly on its path to achieving clean air."

"In light of today's extremely challenging financial climate, I am also pleased to say that the governor, legislature and voters have made available more than one billion dollars in grants and loan programs to help truckers and business owners comply with this vital public health measure," she said.

Diesel emissions are associated with cancer and worsen cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, as do smog-forming emissions. The truck regulation is expected to save 9,400 lives between 2011 and 2025, and reduce health care costs.

These benefits have an estimated value of $48 billion to $69 billion, said Nichols. The cost of installing the trailer greenhouse-gas-reducing technologies will be quickly recouped through lower fuel use.

Without the diesel regulation, California will not be able to meet U.S. EPA mandated air quality standards and deadlines, and so could lose billions of dollars in federal highway funding.

"In passing these rules, California will continue to lead a nationwide movement to protect our most vulnerable citizens and reduce health care costs by placing highly cost-effective controls on diesel engines," testified Dr. John Balbus, chief health scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

During the public meeting this morning before the Air Resources Board voted to approve the rule late today, Balbus said, "The scientific literature is overflowing with studies documenting harm from diesel emissions to the lungs, the immune system, the heart and cardiovascular system, even the developing brain."

The greenhouse gas reduction measure applies to more than 500,000 trailers, while the diesel regulation applies to about 400,000 heavy duty vehicles that are registered in the state, and about 500,000 out-of-state vehicles that do business in California.

Because many heavy duty vehicles are replaced or retired due to normal business practices on a faster schedule than what the new regulation will require, the number of vehicles expected to be retrofit by 2014 under the rule is about 230,000, while up to 350,000 vehicles would be replaced earlier than normal over the next 15 years.

There are exceptions to the regulation, including low-use vehicles, emergency and military vehicles, and personal use motor homes. School buses would be subject only to requirements for reducing diesel particulate matter and not for engine replacement.

To reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality and public health, the California Air Resources Board adopted a Diesel Risk Reduction Plan in 2000 and has already passed regulations addressing urban buses, garbage trucks, school bus and truck idling, stationary engines, transport refrigeration units, cargo handling equipment at ports and rail yards, port trucks and off-road vehicles.

California is the state with the most polluted air in the country. Because of new engine standards established in 2001, diesel engines operating in California have been getting cleaner, but they are not getting clean fast enough to meet air quality goals.

With the new State Bus and Truck rule in place, by 2014, diesel emissions will be 68 percent lower than they would be without the regulation, while emissions of the smog-forming pollutant nitrogen oxides will be 25 percent lower.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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