April 16, 2003
EPA proposes rules for diesel
Regulations would force Cat to reduce harmful emissions
of Copley News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed tough new regulations that would force Caterpillar Inc. and other manufacturers of diesel-powered bulldozers and tractors to reduce polluting air emissions by more than 90 percent by 2014.
The proposed new rule also would require refiners to produce a cleaner-burning diesel fuel that contains 99 percent less sulfur by 2010.
Environmentalists and public health advocates praised the new rules, while the industry offered cautious support for the proposal that follows the EPA's similarly strict emissions rules on highway trucks and buses.
Blaming diesel pollution for thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and respiratory ailments, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said the $80 billion savings in health care costs would far outweigh the $1.5 billion a year that the proposed new rules would cost manufacturers.
"From shrouding our cities and parks in haze to making it difficult for Americans with respiratory problems to breathe - especially children with asthma - these emissions not only harm our air but our quality of life as well," Whitman said.
By 2030, the proposed rules will have prevented 9,600 premature deaths, 16,000 heart attacks and 260,000 respiratory problems in children, EPA officials said.
One large bulldozer produces 800 pounds of air pollution a year, the equivalent of 26 cars, Whitman said.
If finalized next spring as expected, the proposed rules would force Caterpillar and other companies that manufacture tractors, construction and mining equipment to install advanced emission controls between 2008 and 2014. The EPA estimates it will cost $2,600 to add advanced emission controls to a 175-horsepower bulldozer, about 1 percent of the $230,000 purchase price.
"Meeting these aggressive emissions targets will stretch the diesel engine industry," Caterpillar spokesman Carl Volz said. "Fortunately, Caterpillar is well-positioned to provide a long-term technology solution."
Caterpillar is spending more than $500 million in developing a new technology called ACERT that will make its engines less polluting. The technology already is being used in its truck engines. The first non-highway vehicles to include the technology will be produced in 2005.
When fully phased in, the proposed engine requirements would reduce emissions of soot, known as particulate matter, by 125,000 tons and nitrogen oxides by 825,000 tons from today's engines.
The sulfur content of diesel fuel will be reduced from its current uncontrolled level of 3,400 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm in 2007 and ultimately to 15 ppm in 2010 - for a 99 percent reduction.
"These are substantial reductions that will require substantial investments from refiners," said American Petroleum Institute fuels specialist Marc Meteyer. "The phased-in approach makes it possible."
The low-sulfur fuel will cost about 4.8 cents more per gallon to produce in 2010, but lower maintenance on engines using the cleaner fuel will reduce the cost to 3.3 cents per gallon, according to EPA estimates.
Environmental groups including the Natural Resource Defense Council praised the proposed regulations.
When they take effect, the regulations "will be the biggest public health step since lead was removed from gasoline more than two decades ago," said NRDC attorney Richard Kassell.
The EPA announced the proposal on the same day that the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense released a report highlighting the health hazards of diesel.
"Diesel exhaust contains a host of harmful contaminants that together pose a cancer risk greater than that of any other air pollutant as well as causing other short and long-term health problems," said John Balbus, a physician who heads the Environmental Defense public health program.