The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday proposed a rule to reduce the sulfur content in diesel fuel by 97 percent to provide for the cleanest-running heavy-duty trucks and buses in history.
The agency estimates the plan would cut tailpipe pollution from large trucks and buses by 95 percent -- the clean-air equivalent of eliminating air pollution from 13 million of today''s trucks.
"Anyone who has ever driven behind a large truck or bus is familiar with the smell of diesel fuel and the clouds of thick exhaust emissions. Today''s action would cut this harmful air pollution by more than 90 percent," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "This proposal will provide dramatically cleaner heavy-duty trucks and buses. The result will be significantly healthier air for all Americans."
This action, in combination with other EPA actions, such as controlling pollution from power plants and passenger cars, will help ensure that more than 120 million people across the country will be able to live in areas that meet national health standards for clean air.
EPA said the proposal would reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxides from these vehicles by 95 percent, and it would reduce particulate matter, or soot, by 90 percent.
In the United States, every year, smog and soot account for 15,000 premature deaths, one million respiratory problems, 400,000 asthma attacks, and thousands of cases of aggravated asthma, especially in children.
To date, most diesel trucks and buses have not used pollution control devices such as catalytic converters, similar to the devices that have been used on cars for the last 25 years.
EPA will require that the cleaner diesel contain no more than 15 parts per million of sulfur, beginning in 2007. Currently diesel fuel contains 340 to 500 parts per million.
Diesel engine manufacturers would have flexibility to meet the new standards through a phase-in approach between 2007 and 2010. Gasoline engine manufacturers will have to meet the standards in 2007.
EPA officials acknowledge it likely will be years after 2007 before all trucks on the road meet the pollution requirements because of the time it takes for truck and bus fleets to turn over.
The agency said the proposal is designed to include significant lead time for the introduction of new cleaner fuel into the marketplace and to ensure no disruptions in fuel supply.
The fuel provisions would go into effect in June, 2006. EPA is seeking comments in its proposal on ways to incorporate additional flexibility for small oil refineries.
There will be five public hearings regarding the proposal. The hearings will take place in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles.
EPA plans to finalize its proposal by the end of this year.
The proposed rule and related documents are available at the agency''s Web site at www.epa.gov/otaq/diesel.htm.
by Virginia Sutcliffe