ARB Adopts Landmark Off-Road Emissions Rules
27 July 2007
|The off-road sector that will be regulated (gold wedge) accounts for a large component of the state’s mobile source diesel emissions. Click to enlarge. Source: ARB|
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted pioneering—and controversial—NOx and PM regulations aimed at reducing toxic and cancer-causing diesel emissions from the state’s estimated 180,000 off-road vehicles used in construction, mining, airport ground support and other industries.
The regulations were linked to the ARB upheaval earlier in July that resulted in the firing of the then-Chair, Dr. Robert Sawyer; the resignation of the executive director, Catherine Witherspoon; charges about the Schwarzenegger administration meddling in Board decisions; and ultimately, the appointing by Governor Schwarzenegger of Mary Nichols as the new ARB Chair. (Earlier post.)
This regulation will prevent thousands of premature deaths and reduce health care costs for those suffering from respiratory disease such as asthma. It is also the first of its kind in the nation, and, as has occurred with other California regulations, could serve as a model for other states to follow.—Mary Nichols, ARB Chairman
Diesel particulate matter 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% below 2000 levels by 2020. Other sources of diesel particulate matter such as transit buses, trash trucks, cargo-handling equipment and ship auxiliary engines have already been addressed through regulations, along with diesel fuel.
Because many diesel engines lack emission controls and can remain in use for 30 years or longer, they will remain a major contributor to air pollution for years to come. The new regulation will dramatically reduce emissions by installation of diesel soot filters and encouraging the replacement of older, dirtier engines with newer emission controlled models.
|The new rules establish fleet averages for compliance. Click to enlarge. Source: ARB|
By 2020, diesel particulate matter will be reduced by 74% and smog-forming oxides of nitrogen by 32%, compared to what emissions would be without the regulation.
The new rule also includes a provision allowing areas that are currently unable to achieve clean air standards set by the US EPA for particulate matter to opt in to stricter regional requirements if incentive funds are made available. The air districts that could take advantage of this provision are the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District; both are considered non-attainment areas for particulate matter. Depending on the amount of incentive money made available, these provisions could as much as a double the NOx emissions benefits in these districts, setting them on a faster track to meeting their clean air goals.
The new rules apply to off-road vehicle engines of more than 25 hp. Labeling and annual reporting, the establishment of idling limits and limits on adding dirty vehicles to fleets beginning 2009. Control requirements begin in 2010.
The requirements and deadlines vary depending on fleet size. For small fleets, which include small 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 more than 5,000 horsepower, must begin complying in 2010. Affected vehicles include bulldozers, loaders, backhoes and forklifts, as well as many other self-propelled off-road diesel vehicles.
Fleets have two paths to compliance:
Meet fleet emission targets by any method, such as NOx or PM exhaust retrofits; buying cleaner new or used vehicles; repowering (installing cleaner engines); and retiring dirty vehicles.
Demonstrate progress in reducing emissions with Best Available Control Technology (BACT). This is a “Safety valve” for fleets that cannot meet targets.
ARB performed a comprehensive economic analysis of the rule’s impact on business, concluding that the regulation will cost industry $3.0 - $3.4 billion over its lifetime. The industry hotly contested these figures, arguing that the cost to companies and government agencies would be more than $13 billion.
Staff reviewed individual companies’ financial records and conducted numerous workshops to discuss the cost of the regulation as well as impacts on individual businesses. ARB staff concluded that industry estimates were based on a normal turnover rate that was too low; assumed no fleets would meet the fleet average; and assumed vehicle prices that were too high. ARB staff stuck by their original estimate.
ARB did give special consideration to small businesses (e.g., small fleets have until 2015 to begin compliance, while large fleets must begin in 2010) to ensure that the regulation would not provide undue economic hardship.
The Board’s action also sets the stage for efforts next year to develop similar requirements for the hundreds of thousands of on-road trucks that travel on California’s roads every day.
According to ARB estimates, over its course, this new rule will prevent at least 4,000 premature deaths statewide and avoid $18-$26 billion in premature death and health costs.
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