NEW YORK (March 2, 2007) -- A long awaited federal plan announced today to clean up dangerous, lung-clogging emissions from railroad locomotives and large marine diesel engines could be thrown off track if General Electric -- the company that touts its EcoImagination -- succeeds in ongoing attempts to weaken or delay new standards, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has been working for more than a decade to clean up one of the most dangerous types of air pollution.
“EPA has put a solid proposal on the table that will help thousands of people with asthma and other respiratory ailments breathe easier.” said NRDC attorney Richard Kassel. “The question now is whether GE will continue to try to delay or weaken it.”
General Electric is the country’s largest railroad locomotive manufacturer, and stands alone in continuing to oppose a sensible plan that now has support from the industry’s other major players. Rail and marine diesels are the last of three categories slated for cleanup by EPA, which has already issued new standards governing on-road trucks and busses, and off road commercial machinery such as construction equipment.
The rules cover 40,000 marine vessels and nearly 21,000 diesel locomotives that travel hundreds of millions of miles each year, emitting as much smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution each year as 120 coal-fired power plants. EPA will implement a series of emissions standards for new and remanufactured engines in these sectors starting in 2009 and running through 2017. Once the transition is complete, the new standards are expected to save $12 billion in health care costs every year and prevent 1,500 premature deaths.
“Pollution from diesel engines causes tens of thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes in this country each year,” Kassel said. “We can cut those numbers drastically by using cleaner fuels and better engine technology. We’ve done it for trucks and we’ve done it for tractors. Now it’s time to clean up railroad and marine emissions too.”
NRDC is also seeking to strengthen provisions governing rail yard switchers and marine engines, and urging the agency to finalize the new rule by the end of the year so that companies can get to work developing the new engines and retrofit technologies. Speedy completion will also allow state officials around the country to count on the reductions to help meet upcoming Clean Air Act air quality standards.
Just as in the highway diesel rule adopted in 2000 and the Non-road diesel rule of 2004, the new proposal combines cleaner, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel with advanced pollution controls.