California Public Utility Commission Approves Incentive To Reduce Diesel Engine Pollution

The Public Utility Commission has established an incentive program proposed by Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and others to encourage agricultural customers to switch from diesel-powered irrigation pumps to electric pumps.

The PUC's decision allows a reduced rate plan that is designed to compete in price with diesel fuel for farmers who opt to install electrically powered agricultural pumps rather than diesel powered ones. Farmers had resisted changing due to unstable rates of electricity, the cost of running power lines out to the engine, and the price advantage of diesel over electricity.

The incentive program establishes a new electric rate schedule for program participants beginning with a rate approximately 12.5 percent below the otherwise applicable rate schedule. The rate then increases by 1.5 percent per year for the 10-year term of the program.

"SCE is pleased to gain approval of this proposed new rate schedule because it will improve air quality while providing overall economic benefits to our customers," said Bill Bryan, SCE vice president of the business customer division.

According to the California Air Resources Board, the PUC's decision will help to eliminate as much as 3,000 tons per year of nitrogen oxides. "That means cleaner air for people to breathe, less cardiac and pulmonary disease, and cleaner air for plants to thrive in, which in turn means improved crop yields," said Catherine Witherspoon, ARB executive officer.

With the adoption of the new rate schedule, the PUC has made the pollution cuts from agricultural engines now required for air quality clean-ups less burdensome, ARB officials said.

"The PUC has streamlined the adoption of advanced clean air technology while serving and protecting the health and economy of California," Witherspoon added.

More information on the California Public Utility Commission can be found at

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.