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EPA report: diesel engine grant program has delivered major air, public health benefits

Clean diesel grants aimed at cleaning up old diesel engines have greatly improved public health by cutting harmful pollution that causes premature deaths, asthma attacks, and missed school and workdays, according to a new report by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since its start in 2008, the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program has significantly improved air quality for communities across the country by retrofitting and replacing older diesel engines. From 2009 to 2013, EPA awarded $520 million to retrofit or replace 58,800 engines in vehicles, vessels, locomotives or other pieces of equipment.

EPA estimates that these projects will reduce emissions by 312,500 tons of NOx and 12,000 tons of PM2.5 over the lifetime of the affected engines. As a result of these pollution reductions, EPA estimates a total present value of up to $11 billion in monetized health benefits over the lifetime of the affected engines, which include up to 1,700 fewer premature deaths associated with the emission reductions achieved over this same period. These clean diesel projects also are estimated to reduce 18,900 tons of hydrocarbon (HC) and 58,700 tons of carbon monoxide (CO) over the lifetime of the affected engines.

The program has also saved 450 million gallons of fuel and prevented 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions—equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from more than 900,000 cars. EPA estimates that clean diesel funding generates up to $13 of public health benefit for every $1 spent on diesel projects.

Operating throughout our transportation infrastructure today, 10.3 million older diesel engines—the nation’s “legacy fleet,” built before 2008—need to be replaced or repowered to reduce air pollutants. While some of these will be retired over time, many will remain in use, polluting America’s air for the next 20 years. DERA grants and rebates are gradually replacing legacy engines with cleaner diesel engines. Priority is given to fleets in regions with disproportionate amounts of diesel pollution, such as those near ports and rail yards.

This third report to Congress presents the final results from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and covers fiscal years 2009-2011. It also estimates the impacts from grants funded in fiscal years 2011-2013.

Additional report highlights include:

  • Environmental benefits: 18,900 tons of hydrocarbon prevented; 4,836,100 tons of CO2 prevented; 450 million gallons of fuel saved

  • Public health benefits: up to $12.6 billion in monetized health benefits; up to 1,700 fewer premature deaths; although not quantified in the report, NOx and PM reductions also prevent asthma attacks, sick days, and emergency room visits.

  • Program Accomplishments: 642 grants funded; $570 million funds awarded; 73,000 vehicles or engines retrofitted or replaced; 81% of projects targeted to areas with air quality challenges; 3:1 leveraging of funds from non-federal sources.

Comments

Davemart

58,000 out of 10.3 million does not sound too impressive on the face of it, although no doubt the largest and most polluting have been selectively targetted.

HarveyD

Good results but why should tax payers pay for ICE industries dirty diesel upgrade?

mahonj

@harvey - a good question.
You have a lot of operators who probably have pretty thin margins. If you ban the vehicles, you put a lot of people out of work. They won't be able to afford to change the vehicles or engines, so you have to act in the public good by subsidising the engine replacement or upgrading.
There is little point in encouraging wealthy people to move to even less polluting cars / trucks, you have to fix the very worst offenders.
As they seem to be doing.

Lad

Too bad battery tech hasn't advanced to the state the diesels can be replaced with Emotors. Diesels just keep getting dirtier with age as they wear.

Jason Burr

It doesn't seem like that many vehicles, but this is directed at trains, stationary power units (pump water, generators, etc.), tractors, dozers, yard trucks, mining/logging trucks, semis (local and long haul). Basically all the engines that either were cheaper to repair as is, or even were bought specifically because the lack of emissions "hassle". Of course there is also a substantial portion of these owners that don't have the funds to upgrade to the latest and greatest.

Here is one example - growing up (graduated '96) one tractor was newer than 1980, the rest were '50s and '40s models of Cat and John Deere. Most of the yard trucks were early '50s GM product. Local haul to the processing plant and port were auction semis that were retired from larger fleets. That's how my dad's friend/boss was able to grow a successful business - scrimp and save. Now they can afford to upgrade to newer products and retire older equipment.

Back to the article - the engines targeted by this grant program are so much older that replacing even a small few make a much larger impact than stricter regulations on current or even a couple year old engine.

HarveyD

Maybe, whenever an ICEV cannot pass decent pollution tests, it should be upgraded or scraped at the owners expense.

The public could pay for a minor part of the cost but the major part should be the responsibility of the owners-operators?

Otherwise, smart operators will buy very cheap very old units and have them upgraded by our tax money?

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