Whitman Gives Green Light on Diesel Fuel Rule

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman Wednesday directed that EPA\r\nmove forward on schedule with its rule to make heavy-duty trucks and\r\nbuses cleaner.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman Wednesday directed that EPA move forward on schedule with its rule to make heavy-duty trucks and buses cleaner.

The Bush Administration announced in early February that it would review the diesel sulfur and clean engine standard imposed by the Clinton-run EPA, postponing the regulation''s effective date for 60 days.

However, in a statement released Wednesday, Whitman said, "The Bush Administration determined that this action not be delayed in order to protect public health and the environment. I look forward to working with state and local governments to meet their air quality goals as well as with citizens and businesses to ensure that diesel trucks and buses remain a viable and important part of the nation''s economy."

According to EPA, these vehicles, which will be ready by model year 2007, will cut harmful pollution by 95 percent.

The agency will also require a 97 percent reduction in the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel from its current level of 500 parts per million (ppm) to 15 ppm.

Trade groups representing oil refining and engine manufacturing companies thought that the administration''s review would lead to more relaxed standards.

However, engine manufacturers will be required to meet the new standards through a phase-in approach between 2007 and 2010.

The fuel provision will go into effect in June 2006 and will be phased-in through 2009, according to EPA.

The trucking industry saw the decision as something that could imperil fuel supplies.

American Trucking Association (ATA) President Walter McCormick Jr., said, "EPA has failed to address our concerns that the diesel fuel supply will be adequate and that proper distribution systems will be in place."

McCormick said, ATA was "concerned about the growing patchwork quilt of boutique fuels across the country that impedes the uninterrupted supply and availability of diesel fuel."

McCormick also raised concerns about the underlying technology on which the rule is based.

"Questions about the feasibility of the technology create uncertainty in our industry, and are compounded by questions about the reliability. This uncertainty could have a significant impact on the daily operations of trucking companies."

The agency said the rules are justified to address the growing public health concern that particulate matter in diesel exhaust is a major cause of respiratory problems.

EPA estimates that once this action is fully implemented, 2.6 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions will be reduced each year and particulate matter will be reduced by 110,000 tons a year.

An estimated 8,300 premature deaths, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis and 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children will also be prevented annually.

In addition, 1.5 million lost work days, 7,100 hospital visits and 2,400 emergency room visits for asthma will be prevented, said EPA.

This was the second major clean air action this week. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld EPA''s authority to set clean air standards without taking into effect the compliance costs.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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