EPA Rule Means Progress Against Diesel Pollution According to Natural Resources Defense Council

Group Cites Contrast with Backward Movement on Power Plants, Mercury, Global Warming and More

NEW YORK (May 10, 2004) - Citing progress in reducing diesel pollution, and crediting an open, collaborative process, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) announced its support today for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "non-road diesel rule." The rule is expected to reduce sulfur levels in emissions from new diesel engines used in construction, farming, and non-road industrial diesel equipment by 90-95 percent by 2014.

When fully implemented, according to EPA estimates, the non-road diesel rule will result in more than $80 billion in annual health benefits by eliminating more than 12,000 premature deaths, 200,000 cases of asthma exacerbations among children, 280,000 cases of respiratory symptoms in children, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, and more than one million lost work days.

"This rule will go a long way toward reducing the significant pollution problem of non-road diesel engines," said Richard Kassel, the director of NRDC's national vehicles and fuels project. "Unfortunately, this positive step stands in contrast with the administration's backward slide on other air pollution issues, especially power plants," continued Mr. Kassel.

NRDC cited as examples of the administration's backward slide: rules delaying pollution controls on old, coal-burning power plants; its proposal to extend deadlines for reducing mercury pollution; EPA's refusal to continue Clean Air Act enforcement; and its refusal to take steps to reduce global warming pollution.

Today's non-road diesel engines emit large amounts of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Particulate matter (soot) has been linked in many studies to increased asthma attacks and hospitalizations, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease and premature death. Nitrogen oxides (or NOx) contribute to summertime smog and acid rain. According to EPA, about 60 percent of vehicle-related soot and about 30 percent of vehicle-related NOx currently comes from non-road diesel engines.

The EPA rule combines fuel changes and new emissions standards to maximize environmental benefits and lower implementation costs. First, sulfur levels in most non-road diesel fuel will be reduced from today's unregulated levels, averaging more than 3,400 parts-per-million (ppm), to 500 ppm in 2007 and to 15 ppm in 2010. In response to oil industry lobbying, the 15 ppm sulfur cap for locomotive and marine diesel fuel will take effect in 2012.

Second, more stringent emission standards will follow each sulfur reduction, relying on advanced pollution control equipment that cannot be used with today's high-sulfur diesel fuel. These standards, which will reduce particulate soot and nitrogen oxide emissions by 90-95 percent in most cases, will be phased in from 2008 to 2015. As part of today's announcement, EPA also committed itself to promulgating new emission standards for locomotive and marine diesel engines that could be implemented as early as 2011.

"In the end, this rule succeeded because there was an open, collaborative process involving states, environmental groups, and industry, yielding a result everyone could support. It would be great if the administration would finally lift its veil of secrecy and apply this model to other critical pollution issues," Mr. Kassel concluded.