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CARB Holds off on Off-Road Diesel Rule

By Mark S. Kuhar

In a ruling that comes as welcome news for California aggregates producers, the California Air Resources Board approved a four-year reprieve for its off-road diesel emissions rule, admitting that a down economy and unreliable science contributed to previous data.

The revised rule approved by the California Air Resources Board delays its emissions standards for off-road diesel equipment until 2014, eases the annual burden employers have to bear, and gives contractors greater flexibility in determining how to comply. The revised rule also gives contractors and producers credit for the efforts they have already made to reduce emissions and rewards contractors for voluntarily reducing emissions before 2014. However, the final rule still lowers emissions below the levels that the Board originally sought to achieve when it first proposed its off-road diesel emissions rule in 2007.

“The Board’s decision to approve the revised off-road diesel emissions rules gives hope to thousands of construction workers fearful for their job security while safeguarding California's air quality,” said Michael Kennedy, general counsel of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Board members have demonstrated real wisdom and courage in acknowledging significant errors in their original estimates of emissions from construction and other off-road diesel equipment. The revisions approved today reflect a strong commitment to setting standards based on sound science and reliable data. More importantly, the revisions allow hard-hit construction firms the time and flexibility needed to modernize their diesel equipment in a way that actually delivers meaningful environmental benefits to the state’s residents. That is because the measure’s new timeline allows contractors to modernize their fleets with more efficient equipment coming on line in the next few years.

“Yet even as this new rule provides significant relief for a state-wide construction industry that has lost nearly 50,000 jobs during the last year alone, it also delivers greater environmental benefits than the original version of the rule,” he continued. “In other words, California officials have demonstrated that improving the environment and supporting robust economic growth do not have to be mutually exclusive.”
Feds Act on Diesel Emissions
The passage of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) was hailed as a major step in continuing “a vital clean air program that has benefited communities in every single state in the nation,” according to Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF).

DERA (S. 3973) is a five-year reauthorization of the highly-successful program created in 2005 to establish voluntary national and state-level grant and loan programs to reduce diesel emissions by upgrading and modernizing older diesel engines and equipment. The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senators George Voinovich (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE) and cosponsored by several of their colleagues including EPW Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK).

“DERA has helped clean up tens of thousands of diesel engines. It’s been incredibly cost-effective—EPA estimates that every federal dollar invested in DERA translates into at least 13 dollars in health benefits. This cost effectiveness is actually higher thanks to state and local matches that stretch the federal DERA dollars. DERA funds also support new and existing jobs in clean diesel manufacturing, as well as local jobs in installing and maintaining the new diesel technologies.

“While it’s been difficult lately to find environmental issues that have near-universal bipartisan support among Democrats and Republicans, DERA has proven to be one program to do so,” Schaeffer continued. “In addition, a unique and diverse coalition of more than 500 environmental, health, industry are actively working for DERA’s reauthorization.”