N.Y. Ups Enforcement on Truck, Bus Emissions

Expanding a clean air initiative statewide, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has launched a long-term enforcement strategy to cut down on the health impacts associated with smoke-spewing diesel trucks and buses, especially in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution.

Under the plan, DEC will carry out regular but unannounced enforcement actions in hot spots where heavy truck traffic enters or exits a neighborhood, as well as areas where diesel trucks tend to congregate. At those hot spots, DEC will implement pullover operations that target trucks churning out plumes of visible exhaust -- in violation of state air regulations. DEC will also conduct random enforcement against illegal idling.

The initiative is based on a successful pilot program in New York City.

"Protecting the environment is not just about lakes and rivers and wilderness. It's about safeguarding our urban neighborhoods, too," said DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis. "Excessive emissions from trucks and buses are a problem -- especially in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution. That is why DEC is committed to dealing with this issue."

"We call this our Stop Smoking Initiative for Trucks," said DEC Regional Director Gene Kelly. "This initiative will help identify the dirtiest diesels on the road and influence them to clean up their act."

The initiative comes as a result of a successful city-state crackdown on truck and boiler pollution in 2007 in East Harlem, a neighborhood with elevated asthma rates and heavy truck traffic. DEC law-enforcement officers pulled over and inspected 361 diesel trucks and issued 163 tickets for various violations of state air and safety regulations. The officers also issued 10 tickets for excessive idling.

Based on that operation, DEC estimates that close to 20 percent of the trucks traveling East Harlem daily are out of compliance with state air regulations. That ratio was replicated in a second pullover operation in Harlem on Oct. 31, 2008.