Blog: EPA Regulators Need to Get a Life

When it comes to emissions standards, are EPA officials seeing the forest for the trees?

Thu August 15, 2013 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Protecting our environment from engine emissions may be too important a task for the Environmental Protection Agency. It doesn’t have the world view for the job.

The axiom is that if you put a catsup-maker in charge of the tomatoes, you can expect lots of puree. To have the EPA in charge of regulating noxious fumes from off-road diesel stacks means zero emissions is the ultimate goal. That isn’t the standard yet, but the decade is young.

Don’t get me wrong: I like clean air. Smog is a dirty word and rightfully so. There is no question that old belching diesels looked filthy against a blue sky. I no more yearn to breathe carbon monoxide-laden air and take particulate matter into my lungs than I do to start smoking again.

But air is not the only issue here. Being able to afford next-generation machines is a nagging concern, particularly for contractors who operate equipment fleets. Paying a few thousand dollars more on each machine that sports a new tier number is not a sustainable business model, especially when there are so many tier numbers still available—5, 6, 7…

Men and women who operate these machines are building things almost as important as good air—like roads and schools and dams and an economic future. Some consideration needs to be given to standards that will keep air fresh and builders building.

In a recent conversation, a state environmental manager who is naturally sympathetic to the cause of clean air nevertheless observed that “whenever big government drives something, it has a tendency to get impersonal and a lot of times they just don’t look around and see how it affects people.” It’s true: True believers sometimes do have problems with people being people.

Before a new round of emission controls is sprung on manufacturers, EPA regulators should get a life. Everyone will breathe easier if they do.

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