California Agency Adopts Rule to Reduce Emissions from Off-road Equipment

On July 26, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted a pioneering regulation aimed at reducing diesel emissions from the state's estimated 180,000 "off-road" vehicles used in construction, mining, airport ground support and other industries.

"This regulation will prevent thousands of premature deaths and reduce health care costs for those suffering from respiratory disease such as asthma," said Mary Nichols, ARB Chairman. "It is also the first of its kind in the nation, and, as has occurred with other California regulations, could serve as a model for other states to follow."

Diesel particulate matter, or diesel "soot," was identified as a toxic air contaminant in 1998. In 2000, the ARB established California's Diesel Risk Reduction Plan, which aims to reduce diesel emissions to 85 percent below 2000 levels by 2020. Other sources of diesel particulate matter such as transit buses, trash trucks, cargo-handling equipment and ship auxiliary engines have already been addressed through regulations, along with diesel fuel.

Because many diesel engines lack emission controls and can remain in use for 30 years or longer, they will remain a major contributor to air pollution for years to come. The regulation adopted on July 26 will dramatically reduce emissions by installation of diesel soot filters and encouraging the replacement of older, dirtier engines with newer emission controlled models, officials said. By 2020, diesel particulate matter will be reduced by 74 percent and smog forming oxides of nitrogen by 32 percent, compared to what emissions would be without the regulation.

The new rule also includes a provision allowing areas that are currently unable to achieve clean air standards set by the US EPA for particulate matter to opt in to stricter regional requirements if incentive funds are made available. The air districts that could take advantage of this provision are the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; both are considered "non-attainment areas" for particulate matter. Depending on the amount of incentive money made available, these provisions could as much as a double the NOx emissions benefits in these districts, setting them on a faster track to meeting their clean air goals.

For more information, contact ARB at http://www.arb.ca.gov.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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