The California Air Resources Board has an early Christmas present for the state’s struggling construction industry – a four-year delay in imposition of stringent new emission limits for bulldozers, backhoes and other diesel-powered construction vehicles.
The delay, which the Board is expected to formally approve this week, will “extend relief,” said Karen Caesar, CARB spokesperson, to any number of industries that rely on diesel-powered vehicles, from manufacturing to mining, airport ground support to landscaping.
But the delay will be particularly beneficial, said Caesar, to “the construction industry, which is really suffering.”
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Indeed, since February 2006, California has shed more than 420,000 construction jobs, according to the state Employment Development Department – a nearly 45 percent decline.
Had CARB’s new diesel regulations taken effect, the state’s already ailing construction industry would have been socked with some $1 billion in compliance costs over the next five years. That would have ensured that the state’s jobless construction workers remained idle.
Yet, not everyone is pleased that the Air Resources Board has decided to delay implementation of the new diesel regulations, which were to be the nation’s toughest.
Disconcerted environmental groups note that CARB itself has calculated that diesel emissions – particulate matter and nitrogen oxide – are responsible each year for some 9,200 premature deaths throughout California.
But that figure was based on diesel emissions levels of four years ago, when statewide construction activity was at its peak. Since that time, construction has suffered its worst downturn in at least a half century. Construction-related diesel emissions have fallen by an extraordinary 80 percent, according to CARB.
The Air Resources Board deserves applause for delaying its stringent new diesel regulations; for balancing the concerns of the state’s environmental community with the interests of the construction industry, which, until the recession, was one of the state’s biggest employers.