Senate Passes "Rider" that Strips Clean Air Protections

Amendment by Sen. Bond Benefits Briggs & Stratton

WASHINGTON (November 12, 2003) -- The U.S. Senate today passed a provision that would strip existing state authority to reduce air pollution from millions of so-called non-road engines that are used in lawn and garden equipment, generators, forklifts, airport service equipment, mining and logging equipment, and outboard motors. The provision was adopted as part of the VA-HUD Appropriations bill (S. 1548), which sets the annual budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, including Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development.

The provision, offered as an amendment by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), overturns 25 years of Clean Air Act law that permits states to reduce pollution from these non-road engines. In 1977, Congress provided states with the option of choosing between federal engine standards or more protective California standards for these engines. However, states were preempted from regulating new engines used in farm or construction equipment less than 175 hp.

"This provision is nothing more than a special interest kick-back that violates states' rights to provide cleaner air and better health for their residents," said Rich Kassel, director of NRDC's National Vehicles & Fuels Project. "Senator Bond's pre-holiday gift to one company could have health impacts for millions of Americans."

Sen. Bond has acknowledged adding the amendment at the request of Briggs & Stratton, a company that manufactures small engines at two plants in his home state of Missouri.

Bond's original amendment, which passed the appropriations committee in September, covered all non-road engines less than 175 (hp). These engines emitted as much smog-forming gases as more than 78 million cars in 1999. Although today's revised amendment was limited to engines less than 50 hp, it covered 93 percent of the engines covered by the original amendment. It also added a new prohibition against existing state regulations that cover lawn and garden equipment, forklifts, outboard engines, and off-road motorcycles.

"Today's revised amendment is a wolf-in-sheep's clothing that benefits one company at the expense of clean air and public health," added Kassel.

According to Kassel, there are still two procedural hurdles that the Bond amendment must clear before it can be finalized as law. First, another Senator could offer a "motion to strike" the language in the Senate. Or, if such an effort fails, the provision could be changed or removed from the final bill during the upcoming House-Senate conference committee.

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.