WASHINGTON – Clouds of smog aren’t typically pictured floating over rural areas, yet farm tractors and off-road diesel engines blamed for environmental pollution are targeted under new federal regulations.
The Bush administration announced a new plan April 15 to cut 90 percent of emissions from off-road diesel engines used in construction, industrial, and agricultural equipment by 2014.
Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the plan will significantly reduce emissions of smog and acid rain forming pollutants and will result in major public health benefits.
Sulfur content. The proposal lowers the sulfur content of diesel fuel and mandates the use of less polluting engines, similar to regulations set for on-road diesel engines that will begin in 2006.
The EPA will also lead an effort to retrofit older diesel-powered school buses.
The plan would reduce the level of pollutants from diesel exhaust, which contains particulate matter and nitrogen oxide – the leading components of smog – as well as sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that causes acid rain.
The proposal requires reduction in the sulfur content in red diesel fuel from the current average of 3,400 parts per million to 500 ppm in 2007, the same standard as current highway diesel fuel.
It calls for this standard to be further tightened to 15 ppm by 2010 – a 99 percent reduction.
More than in past. According to a report by Environmental Defense and the American Lung Association, diesel off-road engines are responsible for more pollution today than when the 1970 Clean Air Act was put in place.
The proposal would take effect for new engines starting as early as 2008 and be fully phased in by 2014.
When fully phased in, annual reductions will be 825,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and 125,000 tons of particulate matter.
For the first time, advanced emission control systems will be incorporated into off-road equipment.
‘Workhorse of economy.’ The Diesel Technology Forum, an industry group that represents manufacturers of engines, fuel and emissions control systems, did not fully endorse the plan.
That group issued information that highlighted reductions the industry has voluntarily made in reducing diesel pollution.
Cost. EPA will work with industry groups to mitigate the economic impact of the proposed rule.
The agency estimates the reduced sulfur in diesel fuel will be on average 2.5 cents per gallon for 500 parts per million fuel and 4.8 cents per gallon for 15 parts per million fuel.
Costs range for cleaner engine technology, but the EPA estimates it would add about 1 percent to the cost of a new $230,000 bulldozer or piece of farm machinery.
The next step. The EPA believes the cost of cleaner diesel fuel and tighter emissions controls are far outweighed by the benefits to public health and the environment.
EPA has estimated that by 2030 the program will annually prevent more than 9,600 premature deaths, 8,300 hospitalizations, 16,000 heart attacks, 5,700 children’s asthma-related emergency room visits, 260,000 respiratory problems in children and nearly a million work days lost due to illness.
Nearly 111 million people live in areas that do not meet air quality standards for ground level ozone – smog – and more than 70 million people live an areas that do not meet air quality standards for particulate matter.
Emissions. EPA estimates that off-road diesel engines currently account for about 44 percent of diesel emissions and about 12 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions from mobile sources nationwide.
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