Citing new state data showing California’s off-road diesel equipment operators will be well below new emissions targets for years to come, a national construction association called on state officials to immediately order at least a two-year delay for their new off-road “diesel retrofit” rule. The delay is needed to avoid unnecessary losses and layoffs within the state’s hard hit construction industry while the California Air Resources Board continues to review its diesel rules, the Associated General Contractors of America said in an emergency petition filed Jan. 11.
“Contractors don’t need to retrofit, repower or replace a single piece of equipment to meet the state’s emissions targets for the next two years, and possibly even longer,” said Mike Kennedy, the association’s general counsel. “Construction workers shouldn’t have to lose their jobs because state officials want more time to review their own data.”
The association said the new petition was needed after board officials failed to reconsider their off-road diesel rules during their early December meeting. Noting that the current rules are scheduled to go into effect weeks before the board hopes to complete even its preliminary review of the latest data, association officials said they had no choice but to formally request an immediate emergency amendment.
A new inventory of construction equipment conducted by state officials earlier this year, when run through the board’s own computer model, found the state’s off-road diesel equipment would emit far less particulate matter and nitrogen oxide than originally estimated. Because of the severe economic downturn and measures contractors have taken to cut emissions, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions will remain below target levels for years to come.
Meanwhile, the state’s construction industry continues to suffer from severe market conditions. In early January federal officials reported that every one of the state’s metropolitan areas lost construction jobs between November 2008 and 2009, including El Centro, which suffered the nation’s largest percentage decline in its construction workforce. Since June 2006, a total of 328,000 construction workers have been laid off statewide as demand for housing, retail, commercial and manufacturing construction has plummeted.
The association originally petitioned the board to amend the rule in December 2008. At the board’s request, the association voluntarily deferred action on that original petition pending further research board staff said it needed to conduct. Since that research will continue beyond the rule’s implementation date, the association decided to file the emergency petition for interim relief.