SAN DIEGO: The Air Resources Board today adopted amendments to help business owners comply with its pioneering 2007 regulation aimed at reducing toxic diesel emissions from the state's estimated 180,000 off-road vehicles such as tractors and bulldozers used in construction, mining and other industries.
The changes to the regulation implement legislation signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in February to provide temporary relief to firms that have reduced used of their vehicles due to downsizing or work stoppage. Fleets will be able to use credits to delay retrofitting their existing equipment with pollution controls or purchasing new equipment. The changes will not repeal or delay general implementation of the rule.
"This harsh economy calls for flexibility and creativity when dealing with new regulations if we are to continue to make progress in reaching the goal of healthy air for all Californians," said ARB Chairwoman Mary D. Nichols. "These changes will allow the hardest-hit fleets to postpone their compliance costs until the current recession has eased. We will still achieve dramatic diesel emission reductions, but over a slightly longer timeframe."
Because many diesel engines lack emission controls and can remain in use for 30 years or longer, they will contribute to air pollution for years to come. The regulation adopted in 2007 - the first of its kind in the nation -- requires installation of diesel soot filters and replacement of older, dirtier engines with newer emission-controlled models according to a staggered timeline, depending on fleet size. By 2020, the rule will reduce diesel particulate matter by 74 percent and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen by 32 percent, compared to what emissions would be without the regulation.
The changes will also allow fleets to delay a portion of their compliance obligations for 2011 and 2012 until 2013. The Board also approved changes recommended by staff, including exempting vehicles that are retrofitted ahead of schedule from being replaced in the future, and allowing small-and medium-sized fleets to buy a filter today instead of having to buy two in a future year.
According to ARB estimates, over its course, this rule will prevent at least 4,000 premature deaths statewide and avoid $18 - $26 billion in premature death and health costs.
Requirements and deadlines vary depending on fleet size. For small fleets, which include businesses or municipalities with a combined horsepower of 2,500 or less, implementation does not begin until 2015. Medium fleets, with 2,501 to 5,000 horsepower, have until 2013, while large fleets, with over 5,000 horsepower, must begin complying in 2010. Affected vehicles include bulldozers, loaders, backhoes and forklifts, as well as many other off-road diesel vehicles.
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 big rig trucks, transit buses, trash trucks, cargo-handling equipment and ship auxiliary engines have already been addressed through regulations, along with diesel fuel.
The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.