Feds Ironing Out New Emissions Rules for Off-Road Diesels

Government agencies are drafting new rules that would make diesel emissions from off-road vehicles more comparable to the current emission standard for trucks and buses.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Office of Management and Budget are expected to make a formal proposal this spring that would cut off-road diesel emissions as much as 95 percent, according to published reports. A final rule could be released in 2004.

Since 1977, on-road vehicles have been required to meet a greater standard than off-road vehicles such as farm and construction equipment. Federal studies have indicated that these off-road engines are second only to power plants in the amount of harmful pollutants released.

The EPA original proposal would require the sulfur content in diesel fuel to be reduced from 3,000 parts per million to 15 parts per million by 2008. Off-road diesel engine makers would have to produce engines with better pollution control devices starting in 2009.

Affected industry groups including the American Petroleum Institute and engine makers have opposed the move, which has brought praise from environmental and health groups such as the American Lung Association.

The two federal agencies have said that the economic and health benefits of the plan outweigh the expected cost to industry. EPA officials have said they are favoring a gradual sulfur reduction that has been advocated by industry groups, according to a Dec. 30 story in The Washington Post.

That proposal would require a small sulfur content reduction by 2007 and the full reduction requirement would be postponed until 2010. Engine manufacturers would have an extra two years to produce equipment to meet the new standard, the report stated.

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