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EPA Cracks Down on Diesel Fuel

Sat June 03, 2000 - West Edition
Amanda L. Gutshall

A few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clinton Administration introduced a proposal to reduce the sulfur content in diesel fuel by 97 percent for heavy-duty trucks and buses.

This will result in the cleanest-running heavy-duty trucks and buses in history, according to a statement by the EPA, published on May 17.

This proposal could be an indicator of things to come for construction equipment regulations.

The May 17 proposal, the EPA said, “will help ensure that more than 120 million people across the country will be able to live in areas that meet the national health standards for clean air.”

In the United States, smog and soot account for 15,000 premature deaths, one million respiratory problems, 400,000 asthma attacks and thousands of cases of aggravated asthma, especially in children, according to the EPA.

The EPA has addressed diesel fuel and engines together in a single proposal which will reduce harmful emissions from diesel and gasoline heavy trucks and buses by 95 percent. This amounts to eliminating air pollution from 13 million of today’s trucks that are currently on the road, the EPA said.

The proposal requires low-sulfur diesel fuel beginning in 2006. Since heavy-duty diesel vehicles often travel across state lines, this new standard must be available nationwide to ensure the effectiveness of new pollution control devices.

“Anyone who has ever driven behind a large truck or bus is familiar with the smell of diesel fuel and the clouds of thick exhaust emissions. Today’s action would cut this harmful air pollution by more than 90 percent,” said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, in a statement made May 17, about the proposal. “The Clinton-Gore Administration already has produced the toughest tailpipe standards ever for passenger cars, minivans, sport utility vehicles and pick-up trucks. This proposal takes the next big step to achieve cleaner air. It will provide dramatically cleaner heavy-duty trucks and buses. The result will be significantly healthier air for all Americans.”

According to the EPA, an older, dirtier diesel vehicle can emit almost 8 tons of air pollution a year.

“This proposal will reduce 2.8 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions each year once the program is fully implemented. Emissions of soot would be reduced by 110,000 tons each year,” the EPA said.

This proposal will require that diesel and gasoline engines meet higher emission standards. These standards, according to the EPA, would result in the first extended use of emission control devices such as three-way catalysts and soot traps on these engines.

Manufacturers of diesel engines will have to meet the new standards through a phase-in approach between 2007 and 2010. Gasoline engine manufacturers will have to be up to snuff by 2007, according to the EPA.

The proposed standards call for the soot standard to be 0.01 grams per brake-horsepower-hour (g/bhp-hr). The current soot standard, according to the EPA, is 0.1 g/bhp-hr. The soot standard has to take full effect by the 2007 model year.

There also is a standard for smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC) of 0.20 g/bhp-hr and 0.14 g/bhp-hr respectively. The current standard for NOx is 4 g/bhp-hr and for HC is 1.3 g/bhp-hr. The new standard has to be implemented between the years of 2007 and 2010. Gasoline engines will have to meet these standards by 2007, according to the EPA’s proposal.

There have been some questions about how this will affect the heavy-duty truck industry and the cost of diesel fuel. According to the EPA, “the cost of reducing the sulfur content of diesel fuel would result in an estimated increase of approximately three to four cents per gallon.”

The EPA also estimated that vehicle costs could increase from $1,000 to $1,600 depending on the size of the vehicle.

According to Roy Wiley, manager of external relations, International Truck and Engine Corporation, this proposal will not have any effect on the manufacturing of trucks; it is geared toward engines. “What the EPA is suggesting is that oil companies come up with low-sulfur fuel,” he said.

As well as making heavy-duty trucks, International makes engines for its medium trucks, school buses, and for Ford Motor Company’s heavy-duty pick-up trucks.

Wiley said that the only change that will have to be made is putting the after-treatment devices on the engines. “The basic engine, though, will not change,” he said.

The day before the EPA’s proposal was announced, International announced in Los Angeles that it will introduce a production school bus that will be equipped with the company’s Green Diesel Technology. This, according to an International release that was dated May 17, is “a catalyzed particulate filter and is fueled with ultra-low-sulfur fuel (under 15 parts per million sulfur content).”

“We are in favor of this proposal. It will aid in reducing diesel emissions, and will result in cleaner air. This is good for the environment and for the country,” Wiley said.

For Freightliner Corporation the transition to meet the EPA’s proposal will not be so easy.

According to Gary Rossow, Freightliner’s director of government and technical affairs, the standards – which are near zero-emission standards – are very stringent.

“There is nothing available today that can meet these standards. They are technology-forcing and are going to require very sophisticated traps and NOx reduction catalysts.

“These things are only now going into preliminary development,” he said.

Engine technology, he added, is going to change dramatically. Freightliner is going to have to develop a completely new coolant system and will have to redesign the engine compartments and exhaust systems, he said.

“It will be a major task. It is too early to say how much it will cost. First, we have to see how much technology the engine companies come up with and what effects that will have with the interface of the truck,” Rossow said.

Although attempts were made to contact other heavy-duty truck manufacturers and engine manufacturers, not all could provide a statement by press time.

The Clinton Administration has commented on the proposal.

“Today’s proposal would establish stringent new standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and the diesel fuel that powers them,” President Clinton said, in a statement dated May 17. “Americans today enjoy the cleanest environment in a generation and the longest economic expansion in our nation’s history. I am confident that today’s proposal – which will be refined in the coming months from input from the public, industry and the environmental community – will produce even greater benefits for both our economy and our environment.”

There will be five public hearings held to discuss the EPA and Clinton Administration proposal. They will be held: June 19, at the Crown Plaza Hotel, New York City, NY; June 20, at the Rosemont Convention Center, Chicago, IL; June 22, at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel, Atlanta, GA; June 27, at the Hyatt Regency, Los Angeles, CA; and June 29, at the Doubletree Hotel, Denver, CO.

Following the hearings, there will be a 45-day comment period. Written comments will be received by the EPA until August 14, 2000. The EPA is planning to finalize this proposal by the end of the year.

For more information, or to look at further documents on the proposal, visit

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