NRDC Strongly Supports EPA's Proposal to Clean up Heavy, "Nonroad" Diesel Engines: Urges Administration to Finalize Plan As Soon As Possible and Proposes Five Improvements

Why NRDC Strongly Supports EPA's Nonroad Diesel Proposal:

  • When it is finalized and fully implemented, EPA's proposal will cut 9,600 premature deaths annually.

    • The final rule would also prevent more than 260,000 respiratory symptoms in children, 5,700 children's asthma-related emergency room visits, 16,000 heart attacks, and almost one million lost work days annually.

    • The rule would provide a net social benefit of more than $78 billion annually.

    • The health benefits of implementing this program are more than the landmark "2007 Highway Diesel Rule"(enacted in 2001, 8,300 premature deaths annually), and more than twice the health benefits of the "Tier 2" emission standards for passenger vehicles (enacted in 1999, 4,300 premature deaths annually).

  • While EPA's proposal is extremely complex, the concept is actually quite simple: first, EPA will require refiners to clean up their dirty diesel fuel by reducing their sulfur levels from today's average of 3,400 parts-per-million (ppm) to 500 ppm in 2007, and then to near-zero levels (actually, 15 ppm) in 2010. Then, once the fuel is clean, advanced emissions control technologies can be used to meet the new emissions standards.

    • Under EPA's proposed standards, particulate soot emissions from most new heavy, nonroad diesel engines will be 95 percent lower -- and nitrogen oxide emissions levels will be 90 percent lower than today's engines.

    • For some of the smaller engines (engines under 75 horsepower), smaller emissions reductions will be achieved because of technical and cost concerns.

    • Even existing engines will be cleaner under today's proposal, thanks to the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

Why EPA Must Reduce Diesel Emissions:

  • Particulate soot from diesel engines has been linked with increased asthma attacks and emergencies, cancer, endocrine disruption, heart ailments, and premature death.

  • Virtually all diesel particulate soot is less than one micron in diameter, i.e., small enough to evade our respiratory defenses and lodge in the deepest recesses of our lungs.

  • The U.S. EPA and the World Health Organization's cancer research agency agree that diesel exhaust is likely to cause cancer.

  • In midtown Manhattan, diesel engines emit more than half of the PM inhaled by New York pedestrians, even though gasoline vehicles outnumber diesel vehicles by ten-to-one in New York State.

  • Diesel nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions contribute significantly to the nation's chronic summertime smog (or ozone) and acid rain, as well as to water pollution in the NYC drinking water system and other large water bodies, crop damage and forest impacts.

  • More than 82 million Americans live in areas that do not meet EPA's upcoming health standard for particulate soot. More than 122 million Americans live in areas that do not meet EPA's health standard for daily exposure to ozone smog.

More Details on How EPA's Proposal Will Work:

  • EPA's proposal will cover thousands of engines, ranging from 3 to 3,000 horsepower.

    • EPA's regulation covers 650 "engine families" that include more than 6,000 different "makes and models" of nonroad diesel equipment.

    • Roughly 800,000 nonroad diesel engines are sold every year -- in contrast to more than 16 million cars, trucks and buses.

  • The proposal covers: (i) more than 850,000 pieces of construction equipment such as bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, earth movers, and excavators; (ii) more than two-thirds of the nation's farm equipment such as tractors, combines, pumps, portable generators; and (iii) airport, seaport and other industrial diesel equipment.

  • Nonroad diesel engines emit more deadly particulate soot than cars, light trucks, sport-utility vehicles, diesel trucks or buses combined.

  • By 2007, these engines will emit roughly 70 percent of all vehicle-related particulate soot emissions and 46 percent of all vehicle-related nitrogen oxide emissions.

  • Most nonroad engines have minimal, if any, emission controls. EPA's first regulatory step to clean up these engines was not until 1996, and some of these engines are still unregulated.

  • Currently, sulfur levels in nonroad diesel fuel are unregulated -- and average 3,400 parts-per-million (ppm). Sulfur in diesel fuel disables the most promising emission controls -- just as it was necessary to take lead out of gasoline to clean up America's cars, it is necessary to remove sulfur from diesel fuel to clean up America's diesel engines.

Five Steps to an Even Stronger Proposal:

NRDC strongly urges EPA to finalize its proposal, as soon as possible. But there are things that EPA should do to make its proposal even stronger.

  • EPA should extend all of the fuel and emissions standards to locomotives and marine diesel equipment.

  • EPA should accelerate the timetable to ensure that all new engines meet the final emission standards by no later than 2012.

  • EPA should reject industry efforts to weaken the proposal by exempting engines or delaying timetables -- and should require small engine makers (under 75 horsepower) to achieve the same 90-95% emissions as other nonroad engines.

  • EPA should reject efforts to reopen the 2007 Highway Diesel Rule, and should use its "baseline" approach to ensure that all highway and nonroad diesel users have access to ultra-low sulfur diesel when and where they need it, rather than industry's "designate and track approach."

  • EPA should not allow this proposal to become a "Trojan Horse" for the "alternative" cost-benefit analyses that have been championed by the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which could undermine other important environmental and public health and safety programs.

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 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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