Caterpillar and Truckers Fight to Stop Clean-up of Dirty Diesel Engines

NRDC to Bush Administration: Don't Cave in to Polluters

WASHINGTON (July 9, 2002) - The Bush administration soon will act on industry demands that it backtrack from its much-heralded program to clean up the nation's diesel engines. Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of diesel engines, and the American Trucking Association (ATA), which represents the nation's trucking industry, are leading a no-holds-barred lobbying and legal campaign to reverse the administration's commitment to cleaning up diesel fuel and emissions.

At a media briefing at the National Press Club today, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) joined its coalition partners -- the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Trust, US PIRG, and the association of state and local air pollution officials (STAPPA/ALAPCO) -- as well as Michael P. Walsh, who directed EPA's vehicle programs under President Carter, in calling on the Bush administration to stand firm against the trucking industry's all-out assault on clean air and public health.

Specifically, NRDC called on the Bush administration to maintain its commitment to cleaning up the dirtiest vehicles on America's roads by:

  • Enforcing the 1998 legal settlement that stopped illegal pollution from Caterpillar engines, and requiring cleaner engines in October 2002;
  • Refusing to grant the trucking industry's request to delay 2004 emission standards;
  • Proposing strong rules to cut sulfur, soot and smog-causing emissions from farm, construction and industrial equipment this year.

Today's diesel engines emit huge amounts of particulate matter (soot), which has been linked with increased asthma attacks, cancer and premature death; and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are a precursor to summertime smog, acid rain, nutrient pollution in waterways, and crop damage. NRDC and its coalition partners applauded the Bush administration's groundbreaking "2007 Diesel Rule," which will cut sulfur levels in diesel fuel by 97 percent in 2006, and slash soot emissions by 90 percent and NOx emissions by 95 percent, with a phase-in starting in 2007. This 2007 diesel rule covers all new truck and bus engines, and save more than 8,300 premature lives each year, according to EPA.

"The Bush administration is seeing first-hand that new technologies are reducing toxic diesel emissions dramatically, so it should not cave in to campaign contributors who prefer pollution over the public's health," said Richard Kassel, an NRDC senior attorney and director of NRDC's Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the trucking industry contributed $5.25 million in hard and soft money in the 2000 election cycle, led by ATA's $1 million in gifts. More than 80 percent of the industry's contributions went to Republicans.

At issue are two pre-2007 decisions that will help determine whether diesel engines soon will be dramatically cleaner than today's diesels. First is an upcoming decision on how to implement consent decrees that were signed by the government, Caterpillar and other diesel engine manufacturers in 1998. The decrees stemmed from a decade of manufacturers using computer and electronic tricks to design engines that passed EPA emission tests but emitted more than double the allowable NOx emissions at highway speeds. Enginemakers sold more than 1 million diesel engines that used these devices in the 1990s. They emitted as much NOx emissions as 65 million more cars.

In five separate legal actions and a lobbying onslaught, Caterpillar is asking the Bush administration, Congress and a federal court to let it escape from its prior commitment that it would meet EPA's 2004 emission standards in October 2002. These standards would reduce emissions more than 40 percent, and are a first step toward successfully implementing the 2007 diesel rule.

Caterpillar also is seeking to reduce the "conformance" penalties that it would have to pay if it insists on selling engines after October 2002 that fail to meet the new standard. The company also wants EPA to decertify Cummins' new engines that have met the new standard.

"Caterpillar is asking the Bush administration and the courts to reward it for sticking its head in the sand and refusing to use the new, cleaner technologies that Cummins and others are successfully using to reduce their diesel emissions," said Kassel.

The second decision stems from a "petition for review" filed by ATA, in which ATA is demanding that the Bush administration throw out its 2004 emission standards altogether. As part of the lobbying campaign that accompanies ATA's legal action, 345 motor carriers wrote to President Bush recently, trumpeting ATA's viewpoint.

NRDC also is asking the Bush administration to propose a new set of fuel and emission standards for the nation's farm, construction and industrial diesel engines this year that would apply the 2007 diesel rule's sulfur, soot and NOx limits to these off-road engines. Off-road engines emit more pollution than trucks and buses. Such a rule would save more than 8,500 lives every year, according to STAPPA/ALAPCO.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.