Hearing on EPA's Proposed Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Standards and Highway Diesel Fuel Sulfur Control Requirements
July 14, 2000
Transportation Alternatives, a 5000 member bicycle, pedestrian, and mass transit advocacy organization based in New York City, formally congratulates the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposal to remove sulfur from diesel and to clean up the country's trucks and buses.
It is no secret that New York City has massive pollution problems. Diesel's toxic particles along with nitrogen oxide emissions are, without a doubt, the most serious air pollution threat facing most Americans, including millions of New Yorkers.
That is why we wholeheartedly support the EPA on its new proposal that effectively ensures better health and cleaner air for all Americans. By June 2006, 97 percent of the sulfur in diesel fuel would be eliminated; by 2007, asthma attack-inducing soot particles would be reduced by almost 90 percent; and by the end of the decade, tailpipe emissions of smog-creating nitrogen oxides would be cut by 95 percent - a startling proposition considering that is the equivalent of removing the pollution from 13 million of the nation's trucks from the streets!
Current high-sulfur diesel prevents the effective use of new emission control devices that could eliminate diesel's pollutant toxins, just as lead in gasoline prevented the catalytic converter from functioning properly in the 1970s. Study after study confirms the hazards of today's diesel-fuel. It is a proven fact that diesel fuel emits large quantities of particulate matter (PM), NOx and other toxic compounds - pollution that is linked to a wide variety of ailments, including increased asthma attacks and emergencies, a number of cardiopulmonary problems, and premature death. In recent years, there has been growing evidence that diesel particulates are associated with increased cancer risk: the National Resources Defense Council estimates that current levels of diesel pollution in midtown Manhattan could yield nearly nine thousand potential cancers.
The EPA plans on reducing sulfuric content in diesel by establishing a nation-wide sulfur cap of 15 ppm (parts per-million) in June 2006. Current diesel sulfur levels in the US are as high as 500 ppm (for on-road vehicles) and as high as 5000 ppm for off-road vehicles, but reducing sulfur levels to below 15 ppm would enable pollution-reduction technology to work properly and effectively. In addition, the EPA has proposed new standards for particulate matter and nitrogen oxides of 0.05 grams-per-brake-horsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr) for PM and 0.2 g/bhp-hr for NOx, respectively.
New York City is a particularly apt location for these proposals to be implemented:
We strongly urge the EPA to refrain from compromising with the oil industry, big business that would rather fight to retain its profits than reform its harmful practices at affordable costs. The oil industry estimates that the EPA proposal will force them to collectively spend approximately $3 to $4 billion over then next decade to produce 15 ppm diesel fuel - a trivial sum considering America's largest oil companies reported $12 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2000 alone.
Given the serious health risks diesel fuel has been proven to cause, we support the EPA's proposal and look forward to seeing this proposal come to fruition. At a minor cost to big business and at an additional three to four cents per gallon for the consumer, producing 15 ppm diesel is a monumental first step towards obtaining sulfur-free diesel, not to mention a cleaner, safer environment for the future.