The government proposed regulations Wednesday it said would eliminate almost all pollution from tractor-trailers, buses and other heavy trucks, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
"These dirty trucks and buses will be history," Carol Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was quoted by AP as saying.
For the first time, new heavy trucks would be required to have the kind of pollution control equipment long mandated for automobiles. The rules also direct that most sulfur be removed from diesel fuel to prevent the new emission control devices from becoming clogged.
The goal is to cut the pollution by nearly 95 percent.
Browner dismissed complaints from the oil and trucking industries that the cleaner fuel could cause diesel shortages and that it would cost too much.
"We're providing a lot of time and flexibility," she said at a news conference where she announced the proposed regulations, which are not expected to be made final until later this year. "We don't see any reason why they shouldn't be able to deliver clean diesel fuel."
She estimated the new fuel, which would be required in 2007, will add 3 cents to 4 cents a gallon to the cost of diesel, which now retail for about $1.41 a gallon. Some industry estimates have been as much as 20 cents.
"Everyone who has ever driven behind a large truck or bus is familiar with the clouds of thick exhaust," said Browner, adding that "such air pollution is not just dirty and annoying – it is a threat to our health."
AP said on Wednesday the regulations have been the focus of intense lobbying with the petroleum industry, truck engine manufacturers and the trucking industry, who argued that the rules will be too costly, cause problems with diesel supplies and may not be technically feasible within such a short period.
The proposed sulfur levels have also prompted heated debate within the administration and vigorous lobbying by the oil industry, which had recommended cutting sulfur levels to 50 parts per million. Industry executives questioned whether the EPA requirement can be met without supply disruptions.
Engine manufacturers have said that such emission reductions would require sophisticated new pollution control devices that need extremely clean diesel fuel to work properly.
Ed Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute, was quoted by AP as saying the EPA standard was "extreme" and "unrealistic." The trade group has proposed a 90 percent reduction in diesel, or to 50 parts per million, arguing that would provide the environmental benefits.
"We think that's excessively costly," Ed Murphy of the American Petroleum Institute, was quoted by AP as saying, referring to the EPA proposal. "It's going to interfere with distillate supplies and doesn't get any more environmental benefits over the proposal we made."
But the pollution control equipment manufacturers said the tougher standard is needed if the equipment is going to work properly, and the diesel engine makers also praised the proposal.
The new diesel requirements would not go into effect until 2006, one year before the tougher truck and bus tailpipe standards. Even then, the standards would apply to only new trucks and truck engines and not to vehicles already on the road. As a result, it would be years before the requirements apply to all trucks.
Still, the proposal won praise from environmentalists.
"It's the biggest vehicle pollution news since the removal of lead from gasoline," Richard Kassel, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, was quoted by AP as saying.
John Coruthers Jr., president of the American Lung Association, was quoted by AP as saying the regulations would dramatically cut the chemicals that produce smog and microscopic soot, both major causes of respiratory illnesses and other health problems.
While large diesel trucks are cleaner today than 20 years ago, they continue to spew out much more pollution than automobiles for number of miles traveled.
Numbers provided by AP said the sulfur reduction required above translates into that the cleaner diesel contain no more than 15 parts per million of sulfur, compared to the current 340 to 500 parts per million. Diesel exhaust solid particuls, or soot, are to be cut to 0.01 grams per unit of engine energy, compared to 0.1 under current standards. Nitrogen oxide emission must be reduced to 0.2 grams per unit of engine energy, compared to the current 2.5 grams.
Earlier this week, the federal National Toxicology Program added diesel exhaust particulates – or microscopic soot – to its list of chemicals that are "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Cancerous tumors have been found in rats after exposure to diesel exhausts.
According to administration officials quoted by the Washington Post on Wednesday, the changes were necessary since soot and smog pollution pouring from heavy-duty diesel engines caused 15,000 deaths annually and 1 million cases of respiratory problems a year, in turn quoting EPA estimates.
The sources added that pollution from those engines is also responsible for an estimated 400,000 asthma attacks annually, especially in children – WASHINGTON (Albawaba.com).
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