Peoria State Journal Register

June 10, 2003

Studies expose risks to diesel operators from emission effects
EPA begins hearings on rules that would affect Caterpillar

DORI MEINERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Diesel-powered bulldozers and tractors produce more air-polluting emissions than previously thought - with Texas, California, Illinois, Louisiana and Ohio topping the list for lung-damaging soot, according to a study released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Another report shows that operators of such ''non-road'' diesel vehicles are exposed to levels of pollution up to 16 times higher than federal health recommendations.

The two studies come as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week kicks off public hearings around the country on proposed new rules that would force Caterpillar Inc. and other makers of diesel-powered non-highway equipment to reduce pollution emissions by 90 percent by 2014.

The EPA will gather public comment on the EPA proposal at separate hearings today in  New York, Thursday in Chicago and on June 17 in Los Angeles.

Supporters of the new rules are concerned that the EPA will back off the tough new proposal in the wake of the resignation of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

''Without Whitman at the helm, there is considerable chance this rule will be undermined. The stakes for public health are too great to let that happen,'' said Union of Concerned Scientists' Executive Director Kevin Knobloch.

When the new rules were proposed in April, Whitman blamed diesel pollution for thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and respiratory ailments and said the $80 billion savings in health care costs would far outweigh the $1.5 billion a year the proposed new rules would cost manufacturers.

The report on the health hazards to diesel operators was prepared by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit association of eight air quality agencies in the northeast.

Caterpillar officials have previously said that meeting the proposed new rules would be difficult, but that the firm is ''well-positioned'' to do so.

The diesel industry won't be opposing the EPA proposal at the hearings, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, an industry coalition that includes Caterpillar.

But Schaeffer acknowledged the proposed new rule will present some significant technical and commercial challenges.