California Diesel Measures: A Look at the Big Picture
After the California Air Board voted to delay and weaken key diesel regulations last month, the mood among environmental, health and community advocates was pretty glum. And more than a few businesses (like these) that invested in clean equipment and technology were also disappointed.
One bright spot was the diesel measure covering trucks that serve major ports and railyards, “drayage trucks,” which was actually strengthened a lot. Some community advocates still questioned how that could be a victory in the face of all the other diesel rollbacks. No doubt that the delays cause real health impacts - we estimated 380 fewer lives saved in 2014 due to delayed clean up. How could the board give up those health benefits? Well, the regulatory weakening was in the name of economic relief as a result of the recession. Unfortunately, respiratory relief took a backseat leaving the million plus Californians living near freeways to stew in the worst pollution for several more years. Ok, that was the bad news.
Where does California’s diesel clean up program stand?
The good news is that California still has the largest diesel clean-up program out there, ensuring major public health, air quality, global climate and economic benefits. Our state has a suite of more than a dozen diesel clean-up measures covering: Transit buses, trash trucks, tugs & ferries, refrigeration units, generators, cargo and airport equipment, construction equipment, port trucks, all other heavy-duty trucks, shorepower and clean fuel for ships, and engine idling limits for school buses and trucks. Restrictions for most of these have already begun. The rules have resulted in fuel savings of over 100 million gallons of diesel each year and thousands of lives saved because of reduced pollution.
What Changed in December?
The amendments to the diesel regulations for trucks and off-road equipment generally gave an extra two to four years to comply with the clean up requirements and in some cases relaxed the requirements. Diesel pollution from these sources is still slated to be cut in half between now and 2014 despite these delays.
- Statewide Trucks and Buses: Beginning in 2015 all trucks older than 20 years will have to be replaced. Many trucks that lack particulate filters will have to install them between 2012 and 2014. All school buses built before 1977 must be replaced by 2012 and those lacking filters must install them by 2014.
- Off-road Equipment: Diesel off-road vehicles and equipment used in construction and other commercial and industrial applications were given four extra years to comply with the original regulation, with large fleets beginning clean up in 2014. Retrofits with filters are no longer mandatory.
- Drayage Trucks: Recent changes closed several unintended loopholes (like this one) that undermined compliance; dirty trucks can no longer serve ports and railyards. This was truly a major victory for fenceline communities.
- Incentives and Loan Funds: In addition to certain exemptions and special credits to ease financial burdens in these regulations, more than $160 million in grants and loans are available to clean up trucks over the next year. Earlier this week, the state announced $250 million in incentive funding for diesel clean up, covering more than 5,000 trucks, among other freight related sources.
Opportunities to achieve early diesel emission reductions remain, not only with the incentive and loan programs mentioned above but with local actions to require cleaner equipment. For example, just a week before CARB met last December the Metro in Los Angeles voted to develop a clean construction policy for MTA funded projects, including the $40 billion worth of projects financed by Measure R. Additionally, several more statewide regulations are planned for diesel engines, including farm equipment and potentially for certain trucks to improve efficiency (e.g. hybrid delivery trucks).
The bottom line: While there are still some improvements and additions to be made, California’s Diesel Control Program stands out as a tremendous model of air quality and public health safeguards for others to replicate. Tune in tomorrow for an assessment of the climate benefits of the program.
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