EPA sets tough new emissions standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new air quality standards for particulate matter (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog) that contain stringent new emissions limits for truck fleets.The EPA action is "a kick in the stomach," according to Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the American Trucking Assns. "We've had millions of truckers and their companies going all out in a real

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new air quality standards for particulate matter (soot) and ground-level ozone (smog) that contain stringent new emissions limits for truck fleets.

The EPA action is "a kick in the stomach," according to Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the American Trucking Assns. "We've had millions of truckers and their companies going all out in a real team effort to help clean the air."

Those efforts helped reduce truck emissions by more than 83% since 1990, he said. "Aggressive standards are already in place and trucking has a plan to meet them," he said. "For EPA to ignore our commitment and the progress we've made is unfair and defies common sense."

Particulate matter, or soot, comes largely from combustion from sources such as power plants, large incinerators, and diesel engines. Ozone is primarily comprised of the haze of chemicals from motor-vehicle and smoke-stack emissions. The EPA said it had reviewed 171 health studies, covering millions of people, that showed harmful effects from breathing particles and ozone at the current standard. The proposed standard, along with clean air programs already planned, would reduce premature deaths and serious respiratory problems, according to the agency.

From trucking's perspective, the new rule would increase the number of non-attainment areas, those metropolitan areas of the country deemed to have poor air quality. This would mean even more stringent controls on emissions, tighter engine standards, new inspection requirements, and new and reformulated fuels, according to Allen Schaeffer, vp-environmental affairs for ATA. It could also result in operational controls over highway speeds and idling time. For instance, switching to low-aromatic diesel fuel could jack up the cost of fuel by 20¢ per gallon, he says.

As part of the new standards, the agency is proposing cutting ozone by one-third, from 0.12 ppm measured over one hour to 0.08 ppm averaged over an eight-hour period. Further, the EPA wants to establish a tighter standard for fine particulate matter common in diesel soot and tire and brake dust. That standard would reduce the permissible size of particulate matter from 10 microns to 2.5 microns, which is about 1/20th the width of a human hair.

The agency will evaluate public reaction to the proposal before issuing a final rule, probably sometime next summer.

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