California Adopts Tough Bus, Truck Pollution Rule

Samantha Young, The Oakland Globe, December 17-23, 2008

California,
a state plagued by smoggy skies and rising asthma
rates, on Friday adopted the nation's toughest
diesel emission standards for the trucks and
buses that crowd its highways.


The state Air Resources Board unanimously approved the new
rule despite warnings that it could cause many of California's small trucking
companies to stop operating. Many of them rely on the older, dirtier vehicles
targeted by the change.


The regulation comes one day after the board adopted
a sweeping plan to reduce the state's greenhouse gases, which is expected
to change everything from the way factories operate to the fuel Californians
put in their vehicles.


Starting in 2011, the diesel rules will speed up the replacement
of thousands of polluting trucks and buses that stay on the road for decades
and are not as clean as newer models with tougher, federally mandated emissions
standards.


More than 250 witnesses jammed the board's meeting during two
days of testimony on the rule.


Schoolchildren from Oakland, farmworkers and physicians
from the San Joaquin Valley and representatives from environmental groups urged
regulators to adopt the most sweeping diesel rule in more than a decade.


Truckers,
loggers, independent dump truck and bus drivers and representatives of rural
counties demanded the board delay what they called prohibitive regulations during
a worsening economic recession.


Air regulators estimated the emissions standards
would cost businesses, school districts and transit agencies $5.5 billion over
16 years.
    That's a cost many smalland medium-sized trucking companies said
they could not afford.


Critics also questioned whether technology being developed
to cut nitrogen oxides would be ready in time.


The heavy-duty trucks that cart
food, electronics, toys and other goods are the leading cause of diesel pollution
in a state with some of the worst pollution in the country. The new rules will
reduce ozone-eating nitrogen oxides and soot-forming particulate matter that
can become embedded in lung tissue.


Nearly a million vehicles will have to be
replaced or retrofitted with smog traps, filters or cleaner-burning technology
beginning in 2011. By 2014, all trucks must have soot filters, and by the time
the rule is fully implemented in 2023, no truck or bus in California could be
older than 13 years unless it had equipment to cut nitrogen oxide emissions.


Generally, the rule applies to any vehicle larger than a double- wheel Ford F-350
pickup truck, including those that come to California from other states, Canada
and Mexico.


Tractor trailers, dump trucks, street sweepers, cranes, fuel delivery
trucks, school buses, motor coaches and airport shuttles all must comply. Some
military, emergency and vintage vehicles would be exempt, along with private
motor homes, snow plows and those driven fewer than 1,000 miles a year. Vehicles
in rural counties that meet federal air standards and some agricultural vehicles
will get extra time to comply.


Regulators said the costs will be spread over
16 years and business could pass them on to customers. A staff report estimated
consumers would see negligible effects such as 1 to 2 cents for a pair of shoes
or a fraction of a cent extra for a pound of produce.


State officials said the
cost is outweighed by an estimated $48 billion to $69 billion in health benefits
for Californians who breathe diesel fumes.
    The state also has several loan programs
and bond money to help businesses replace their fleets.


The board directed its
staff to report back in a year on the economic effects of the regulation and
look for more ways businesses could get state funds.

 

It also gave small companies
an extra year to meet the regulations – a step some environmental groups
complained would delay the health benefits of the rule.

 

Board scientists estimate
the amount of diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxides emitted would be
cut by about a third by 2023, preventing 9,400 premature deaths over 20 years,
150,000 asthma-related cases and 950,000 lost work days.

 

"We have lost
people we love," said Christine Cordero, a community health coordinator
at the Center for Environmental Health based in Oakland. "We have seen
people sick every day for years and decades from this problem. We cannot wait
any longer."


Regulators also adopted another rule requiring long-haul truckers
to install aerodynamic devices and low-rolling tires on trucks and trailers to
help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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