Air Quality News

United States, Mexico Partner To Improve Air Quality In Border Areas

Representatives from EPA and SEMARNAT, Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, met Oct. 19 in Tijuana, Mexico, to announce significant policy changes that will improve the air quality for 12 million residents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri joined Secretary Jose Luis Luege Tamargo of Mexico's environmental agency SEMARNAT to announce Mexico's plan to aggressively reduce sulfur levels in gasoline and diesel fuel beginning in 2006. Mexico is further exploring accelerated introduction of these cleaner fuels in key areas of the country including the U.S.-Mexico border.

This announcement is the most important achievement in meeting the environment agenda developed under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America signed on March 23, 2005, by President Bush, President Fox of Mexico, and Prime Minister Martin of Canada. The SPP is an effort to address the threat of terrorism and to enhance the security, competitiveness and quality of life in North America.

"President Bush's commitment to making that black puff of diesel smoke from trucks, buses and machinery a thing of the past has helped make America's air the cleanest it has been in three decades," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Air pollution knows no borders, and Mexico is taking a great step by joining the United States in efforts to improve air quality -- helping to protect our shared environment and the health of millions of families throughout the border region."

"Improving air quality in our border region is a priority for the EPA," said Wayne Nastri, EPA Region 9 administrator. "Through Mexico's participation in the West Coast Collaborative effort we are able to share information, technology and resources to continue making clean air progress."

Nastri and Luege also signed a Letter of Intent for Cooperation on Diesel Emission Reduction. Under Border 2012's San Diego/Tijuana Clean Diesel Demonstration Project, diesel trucks are now being retrofitted with diesel oxidation catalysts or particulate filters. The retrofitted trucks used in combination with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel will substantially reduce pollution from heavy-duty trucks based in the Tijuana area. Three trucks had retrofits installed in September, 2005 and 40 more trucks will be retrofitted by the fall of 2006.

"Cal/EPA applauds Mexico and EPA for recognizing the importance of our shared air basins. This collaborative partnership to improve air quality through innovative methods, such as introducing low sulfur diesel in the border region, is the result of a strong commitment at the three levels of government," said Alan C. Lloyd, Cal/EPA secretary.

"Mexico's commitment to produce low sulfur diesel fuels in the future is important to help improve air quality along the Arizona-Mexico border and protect the health of children and families in border communities in both the U.S. and Mexico," said Steve Owens, director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

EPA has regulated highway diesel fuel quality since 1993; in a move to improve U.S. air quality the EPA recently established low sulfur requirements in diesel fuel starting in 2006.

Emissions from diesel engines -- especially the microscopic soot know as "particulate matter" -- create serious health problems, especially for children and the elderly. Diesel exhaust contributes to elevated levels of smog and particulate matter pollution.

In August, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson announced $1.4 million in diesel grants which will help leverage over $5.8 million in matching funds to curb diesel pollution as part of the West Coast Collaborative effort and the National Clean Diesel Campaign. The West Coast Collaborative is a partnership between leaders from federal, state and local government, private sector and environmental groups in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, Canada and Mexico.

In addition to the diesel announcements, at the Oct. 19 event the following Border 2012 announcements were made for the Baja region: a new Web site was launched for Baja California allowing public access to real time air quality data from 13 monitors in the border region; EPA funding up to $6.5 million for five new water and wastewater projects in the Baja region; and the cleanup 1.7 million abandoned tires in Baja by the end of this year.

EPA's Border 2012 is a 10 year environmental program that emphasizes measurable results, public participation and timely access to environmental information. The program has six environmental goals addressing air and water quality, reducing land contamination, emergency preparedness for accidental chemical spills and releases, and promotes environmental stewardship.

For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/region9/border/feature.html.

EPA To Keep Current Air Toxics Standards For Three Industries

On Oct. 20, EPA announced it is proposing that further emission controls for cooling towers, ethylene oxide sterilization plants and magnetic tape manufacturing operations are not necessary, claiming a recent analysis shows that current air toxics standards protect public health. EPA issued separate national rules to limit emissions of toxic air pollutants from these facilities in 1994.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to assess the impact of its air toxics standards eight years after they are issued. EPA must require additional emissions reductions if the review shows that the standards do not sufficiently protect human health or the environment. The agency also must require additional reductions if new emission-control technology or pollution prevention practices have become available. EPA will take comment on the proposals for 60 days after notice is published in the Federal Register.

Ethylene Oxide Sterilization: EPA's 1994 air toxics standards limit emissions at commercial sterilization facilities that use ethylene oxide to sterilize heat- and moisture-sensitive products and as a fumigant to control microorganisms or insects. After these facilities implemented the standards, EPA analyzed their remaining air emissions to determine whether they pose a risk to human health or the environment. The analysis found that the risks to humans, as well as ecological effects from these facilities, are low enough that further controls are not warranted, agency officials said. The technology assessment did not find any advancement in emissions control or prevention practices. Under the existing standards, these facilities will continue to reduce hazardous air pollutants by 1,000 tons per year. For more information on this action, visit http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3/fact_sheets/eofs.html.

Industrial Cooling Towers: EPA's 1994 air toxics standards for industrial process cooling towers eliminated the use of chromium-based water treatment chemicals that EPA suspects causes cancer or have other serious health or environmental effects. The rule prevents 25 tons per year of chromium from being emitted into the air. After implementation of the 1994 standards, EPA conducted a risk assessment to determine whether current air emissions posed a risk to human health or the environment. The risk assessment found that the risks posed by current emissions from cooling towers are low enough that further controls are not warranted. The technology assessment did not find any advancement in emissions control or prevention practices, officials said. For more information on this action, visit http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3/fact_sheets/ipctfs.html.

Magnetic Tape Manufacturing: EPA's 1994 air toxics standards limit emissions at facilities that manufacture magnetic tape, including audio and video tape for consumer use. After these facilities implemented the standards, EPA analyzed their remaining air emissions to determine whether they pose a risk to human health or the environment. The analysis showed a low risk from each of the six magnetic tape producing facilities in the country. The technology review found that no new emissions controls or pollution prevention practices have become available for this industry. Under the existing standards, these facilities will continue to reduce hazardous air pollutants by 2,300 tons per year. For more information on this action, visit http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3/fact_sheets/magtaperisk_fs.html.

ATRI Awarded EPA Idling Study Grant

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) announced on Oct. 12 it received a $500,000 grant from EPA to study engine idling reduction technologies as part of EPA's long-term efforts to conserve fuel and reduce emissions for the trucking industry.

The award to ATRI is one of a total of $5 million in grants from the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership program to help promote technologies that save fuel while also reducing pollution.

ATRI's research will concentrate on mobile solutions, which can be used while drivers are waiting to load and unload freight or while taking rest breaks. With its focus on mobile solutions, ATRI will work with motor carriers to identify and evaluate idle reduction technologies installed as part of the truck manufacturing process or prior to the trucks being placed in service. Motor carriers interested in learning how to participate in ATRI's research are encouraged to visit http://www.atri-online.org.

The trucking industry consumes about 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year. Of that, extended but generally necessary idling consumes more than 2 billion gallons.

The funds to study engine idle reduction technologies come at a critical time as the trucking industry is on pace to spend an unprecedented $85 billion more on fuel this year than last. Engine idle reduction technologies have the potential to save the industry 15 million gallons of diesel fuel and about $45 million over the life of the project.

In 2000, EPA had initiated a voluntary program to reduce truck engine idling as a means to conserve energy and reduce emissions. The National Energy Policy directed EPA to work with trucking to establish a program to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. This included implementing alternatives to idling, such as deploying electrification at truck stops and auxiliary power units on trucks. Congress this year earmarked $5 million in grants to deploy idle reduction and energy conservation technologies under EPA's voluntary SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Researchers Use Unique Approach to Analyze Success of Pollution Control Policies

Experts in the fields of engineering, public policy and marketing announced on Oct. 19 they are combining their skills to create a new approach to studying American pollution control policies.

Professor James Winebrake, chair of the department of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, has joined forces with researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley to create a new model for analyzing the effects of automotive greenhouse gas policies on efficiency and pollution levels. The team was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

"There has been a great deal of debate over the effectiveness of U.S. pollution control policies," Winebrake said. "However, few studies have ever attempted to combine scientific data with proper policy and marketing analysis. Through this research, we plan to provide a better understanding of what works and what doesn't and ultimately assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

The team is currently developing a life cycle approach, which takes into account several different factors that impact the effectiveness of greenhouse gas policies. These factors include the degree to which other pollutants affect an area, the availability of alternative energy options and the market availability of products such as hybrid vehicles.

"You cannot properly study the effectiveness of governmental policies unless you take into account the entire environment affecting the outcome," Winebrake said. "This study will propose one of the first frameworks by which a wide variety of disciplines can come together to improve the quality of our environmental regulations and will hopefully serve as model for future analysis."

James Winebrake: http://www.rit.edu/~ppolicy/fac_staff

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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