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NRDC and Industry to Congress: Keep funding diesel retrofits

Rich Kassel

Posted April 7, 2011

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Here’s an item that has nothing to do with the possible government shutdown, Libya, or tomorrow’s Opening Day at Citi Field.

Just yesterday, the Hill published a piece that I co-wrote with Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, on the need to restore funding to the nation’s diesel retrofit program.  The Diesel Technology Forum represents a wide cross-section of the diesel industry, including engine and equipment makers, key component manufacturers, fuel producers, and emissions control technology manufacturers.

It’s not every day that NRDC partners with industry on meetings on the Hill, or in the pages of “The Hill,”so it’s worth pointing out and highlighting this issue.

I’ve written about this program often in the past few months (see here, here, and here), so regular readers know the basics:

Since the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) was first passed in 2005, Congress has spent roughly 500 million dollars to accelerate the clean-up of today’s dirty diesel engines.  In all fifty states, DERA funds have helped clean up school buses that take our children to school, construction equipment that is being used to repair and modernize our infrastructure, and trucks that haul away our trash.

DERA has been hugely popular on both sides of the political aisle.  Environmentalists love that DERA funds have been used to eliminate the black smoke that comes from older, dirty diesel tailpipes and that can trigger asthma emergencies and other health impacts.  Budget hawks love that DERA has been an incredibly cost-effective use of federal funds—they know that every dollar of federal funding is typically matched by at least three dollars of state, local, or private funding, and that every federal dollar typically yields an average of twenty dollars in health benefits.  The diesel industry loves that DERA is helping to kick-start a growing industry of clean, U.S.-led emissions control technologies that can provide green jobs in manufacturing, repair, and maintenance of the new clean diesel equipment.

Most recently, DERA was reauthorized for another five years in December 2010, during the lame duck session that had few other areas of environmental consensus.  The new DERA authorizes $500 million in diesel clean-up funds over the next five years, which should enable EPA to continue the DERA program.

Now, the President’s budget has zeroed out the DERA program, only months after praising it.  Will Congress do the right thing and restore the funds in the next round of budget negotiations?

In our article, we wrote the following:

“We understand that, in this very serious budget climate, tough choices have to be made. But the issue of clean air shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and the diesel clean-up issue has never been one. Last December, Democrats and Republicans came together to overwhelmingly reauthorize DERA for another five years. They recognized that it was one of the most cost-effective programs in government and that there was no such thing as Democrat air or Republican air.
“Now, as the recession keeps diesel engines on the road and jobsite longer and longer, it’s even more important to help fund programs to retrofit and clean up those older engines. If ever a program made sense and had the support of environmental, labor, public health and industry groups, this is the one.
“Since 2005, DERA has been a smart budget choice and a successful program to clean up diesel school buses, trucks, construction equipment and farm engines across the nation. With 11 million dirty diesel engines still on our roads, construction sites, and farms, Congress needs to continue funding DERA.”

Let’s hope that Congressional appropriators read this article, and find the path towards funding DERA.

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GrandmaApr 9 2011 02:19 AM

My last experience with this retrofit was the complete replacement of the whole engine. So much more efficient that it was pretty obvious. We're still way behind Europe on the diesel stuff too. The more efficient burn is so much cleaner, then there's a particulate filter or two on the exhaust.
It's a little disturbing to see new Auto diesels rated as the lesser green choice, compared to Hybrids. To some degree, about sales really.
I hope NRDC looks for more opportunities like DERA, to partner with industry.
Helps to counter growing distrust of big enviros. Everyone knows Obama and his environmentalists hate America.

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