NRDC Hails Court Decision Upholding Diesel Cleanup Rule

Statement by Richard Kassel, NRDC senior attorney and director, Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign

Richard Kassel is a member of EPA's Clean Diesel Independent Review Panel, a member of EPA's Mobile Source Technical Review Subcommittee, and a recipient of EPA Region 2's Environmental Quality Award for his work on diesel issues.

NEW YORK (May 3, 2002) - "NRDC applauds today's unanimous decision by the U. S. Court of the Appeals for the D.C. Circuit derailing an industry challenge to an Environmental Protection Agency rule that will clean up diesel fuel and diesel engines. Specifically, the new EPA rule will remove sulfur from diesel fuel and dramatically slash emissions from new diesel engines.

"Today's decision paves the way for the biggest air quality and public health advance since the we took lead out of gasoline more than 20 years ago. Just as removing lead from gasoline was the key to cleaning up cars, removing sulfur from diesel fuel is the key to cleaning up diesel trucks and buses.

"The effect of the rule will be the equivalent of taking 13 million of the nation's 14 million trucks off the road. Once the rule is fully implemented, each year it will save more than 8,300 lives and prevent 800,000 asthma attacks and related incidents. It also will save more than 1.5 million lost work days annually.

"NRDC applauds EPA Administrator Whitman for her commitment to cleaning up diesel trucks and buses, and congratulates EPA for its successful defense of its rule in court."

Today's court decision stems from EPA Administrator Christine Whitman's February 2001 decision to implement a Clinton EPA regulation that will dramatically clean up the nation's diesel trucks and buses. The regulation will eliminate 97 percent of the sulfur in diesel fuel in mid-2006, and require 95 percent reductions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 90 percent reductions of cancer-causing and asthma-attack-inducing particulate matter (PM, or "soot") from highway diesel engines, beginning with the 2007 model year. Removing sulfur from diesel fuel is a necessary first step to cleaner diesels, because sulfur inhibits or disables the advanced emission controls that will be necessary to meet the new emission standards, just as lead in gasoline disables catalytic converters in cars.

Almost immediately after Governor Whitman's historic announcement last year, industry associations representing the oil industry, the enginemakers and several individual companies filed lawsuits challenging the regulation and seeking to stop EPA from implementing it. NRDC and several other environmental and health organizations intervened in the litigation to help defend EPA's rule. Today's decision soundly rejected the industry contentions, and allows EPA to proceed with implementating its rule.

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.