Mandatory Switch is Giant Leap Forward for Health, Community Air Quality

NEW YORK (June 1, 2006) -- Effective this week, U.S. oil companies will be required to clean up the diesel fuel used by millions of trucks and buses, kicking off a program that will ultimately reduce tailpipe emissions from new vehicles by as much as 95 percent. That constitutes the greatest single step in vehicle emissions since lead was removed from gasoline a generation ago, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which worked closely with government and industry officials on the new rules.

"Dirty fuels have been standing in the way of cleaner air for decades," said Richard Kassel, head of NRDC's Clean Fuels and Vehicles Project. "These sensible new standards are going to help us all breathe a lot easier, and they're going to keep thousands of Americans with asthma and other respiratory problems out of hospital emergency rooms."

Starting June 1, refineries and importers will have to cut the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel by 97 percent, which in turn will allow engine makers to use new pollution controls to cut particulate soot emissions by 90 percent, starting with the 2007 model year. By 2010, all on-road diesel fuel will meet the new "ultra low" sulfur standard, and manufacturers will have to cut nitrogen oxide emissions (which create smog) from new diesel engines by 95 percent.

The standards apply to fuel used in road vehicles only; construction, farm and other non-road equipment are covered under separate regulations.

The program is expected to save more than 8,300 lives, 1.5 million lost work days and $70 billion in health costs each year once today's older engines are phased out. For every dollar the new standards cost to implement, the country will receive almost $18 in health benefits, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Diesel engines emit huge quantities of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and more than 40 chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer. Particulates are associated with increased asthma emergencies; bronchitis and other cardiopulmonary ailments; cancer; and heart disease. In addition to smog, nitrogen oxides contribute to acid rain, and nutrient pollution in waterways.