Environmental groups generally applauded the move and some diesel industry representatives offered guarded praise of the administration’s collaborative rule-making process.
The regulations require refineries to produce cleaner-burning diesel fuel and engine manufacturers to cut diesel emissions such as nitrogen oxide by more than 90 percent.
Off-road diesel-powered vehicles, including bulldozers, tractors, irrigation equipment and dirt movers at construction sites, are among the largest sources of pollutants that scientists have linked to premature deaths, lung cancer, asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses, The Washington Post reported.
“This is a big deal,” Leavitt told reporters. “Nearly everyone will remember when we took the lead out of gasoline. We are now going to take sulfur out of diesel. The black puff of smoke will be a thing of the past.”
Under the new rule, refiners will have to cut sulfur in diesel to 500 parts per million within the next three years and to 15 parts per million by 2012. The amount of sulfur in diesel fuel used in construction can be found as high as 3,400 parts per million, according to government and industry estimates, reported the Associated Press.
Members of the diesel industry and environmental groups said the new regulations came about through various factors, including pressure on the administration to take concrete actions to improve air quality, a willingness in the industry to shoulder the enormous costs of the improvements in exchange for a longer phase-in period, and a realization by environmental groups that the new standards will have a substantial health benefit even though they would take years to put into practice, The New York Times reported.
“This rule will go a long way toward reducing the significant pollution problem of nonroad diesel engines,” said Richard Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which worked with the EPA is shaping the rule. “Unfortunately, this positive step stands in contrast with the administration’s backward slide on other air pollution issues.”
“This rule will help protect seniors, children and people with lung diseases including asthma, who are most vulnerable to the harm from air pollution,” said John Kirkwood, chief executive of the American Lung Association.
The National Association of Manufacturers praised the EPA for engaging in “a collaborative process with interested parties.”
“While the rule has some problems, including stringent locomotive and marine fuel limits, blended fuel transportation and storage obstacles, and problematic compliance dates, the overall rule is a testament to how collaboration among affected parties can lead to a better way of achieving air quality reductions,” said Jeffrey Marks, NAM’s director of air quality, according to the Post.
Allen Shaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, an industry advocacy group, said that despite the challenges in meeting the new requirements, “there is no question about industry’s commitment to meet these aggressive standards.”
Stronger regulations for buses and trucks that use diesel fuel were adopted in the final days of the Clinton administration. They were kept in place by the Bush administration and are set to take effect in 2007.