Cleaner off-road diesel vehicles may save 8,500 lives - report
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration should adopt tough federal pollution emission standards for bulldozers, farm tractors and other off-road diesel vehicles to prevent 8,500 premature deaths and 180,000 asthma attacks each year, state and local environmental regulators said in a report released yesterday
The report was prepared by the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials. Both groups have members across the nation who are responsible for carrying out air pollution laws.
In the new report, state and local regulators urged the administration to cut emissions from off-road vehicles by more than 90 percent.
Green groups are worried that the Bush administration will propose weaker pollution-fighting regulations that would benefit diesel engine manufacturers at the expense of the public health.
\"It is high time that we close the dirty diesel loophole that permits non-road diesel engines to emit much higher levels of pollution than diesel trucks and buses,\" said Frank O\'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust.
In an usual collaboration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management Budget announced last Friday that they would work together to develop rules for cutting emissions from diesel-powered, off-road vehicles.
Both agencies said reducing pollution from such vehicles was a \"top environmental priority\" of the administration.
\"The proposal being developed will evaluate not only new emission control devices that would be required for new engines, but also the reductions in sulfur levels that are likely to be needed to enable the control systems to operate effectively,\" EPA said.
The agency said it plans to publish the rules early next year for comment.
O\'Donnell called the administration\'s efforts a \"Trojan horse,\" because the EPA plan would allow diesel engine makers that do not meet pollution reductions standards to buy emission credits from companies that produce cleaner off-road vehicles.
Off-road diesel fuel contains 200 times the sulfur that will be allowed in highway diesel fuel under new federal clean air regulations that take effect in 2006.
\"Much of that sulfur is chemically converted to dangerous fine particle soot. The sulfur also prevents use of pollution control devices,\" O\'Donnell said.
Off-road diesel engines are huge contributors to higher levels of ozone and soot and nitrogen oxide emissions, which threaten the public health, he said.
Diesel engine makers say it is wrong to expect a bulldozer pushing tons of crushed stone to have the same pollution guidelines of a trailer rig cruising down the highway.
\"These engines do very different things,\" said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum trade group that represents diesel engine manufacturers and diesel fuel refiners.
Schaeffer said off-road diesel engines are not the big polluters claimed in the report, saying the engines account for just 3.3 percent of all U.S. soot emissions.
Schaeffer also questioned the death and asthma prevention figures cited in the report. He pointed out that diesel fuel emissions are down since 1990, but asthma cases are up.
In addition to saving lives, the report said tougher diesel pollution standards would have an annual monetary benefit of $3.4 billion due to improvements in air visibility.
Story by Tom Doggett
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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