EPA proposes new emission standards for off-road equipment

Diesel pollution from off-road construction equipment could be reduced up to 90 percent if a 1,000-page proposal the Bush administration released Tuesday is enacted.

The proposal requires manufacturers of diesel-powered off-road equipment to install new emission controls between 2008 and 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency’s goal is to raise emission standards for off-road equipment to the level of standards for on-road diesel engines. In 2007, fuel sulfur levels in nonroad diesel would be restricted to a maximum of 500 parts per million. By 2010, that level would be restricted to 15 ppm. The proposal particularly targets the emission of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

“While the Diesel Technology Forum has not had the opportunity to thoroughly review these proposed standards, known as ‘Tier 4,’ EPA has indicated they will be modeled after the 2007 on-highway standards using a systems approach that will not only include engines, but also diesel fuel and exhaust aftertreatment devices,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of DTF. “Transferring this approach from the on-highway to off-road sector could present some significant technical and commercial challenges.”

According to Schaeffer, some of the challenges manufacturers face in complying with the proposal could include the diversity of off-road engines, the difference between extreme-duty cycles compared with on-highway engines, the wide range of engine and exhaust temperatures, space constraints and the high sulfur content of diesel fuel.

If the emission standards in the proposal are met, EPA estimates that by 2030 approximately 9,600 premature deaths, 16,000 heart attacks and 260,000 respiratory problems in children will have been prevented.

“While we want to gain all these benefits, what we don’t want to do is to put people out of business,” EPA Administrator Christie Whitman told the Associated Press.

Meeting the emission standards will cost both the equipment-manufacturing industry and the equipment owner more money in the short run. EPA estimates the cost of producing 500 ppm fuel will cost an average of 2.5 cents per gallon. To produce 15 ppm fuel, the cost increases to 4.8 cents per gallon. EPA also estimates a 175-horsepower bulldozer priced at $230,000 will cost an additional $2,600 to add emission control systems to the engine and to redesign the bulldozer to fit the new engine. In the long run, however, the new engines are expected to save owners more money because of reduced maintenance costs expected to result from using low-sulfur fuel.

The proposal contains several provisions that are meant to ease the transition for manufacturers. They include letting small business engine manufacturers and small refiners more time to meet requirements and incentives to encourage companies to meet requirements early. Companies may also petition EPA if the regulations will cause extreme economic strain.

To read EPA’s diesel emission proposal and other related documents, visit www.epa.gov/nonroad. Public hearings on the proposal will be held in New York on June 10, Chicago on June 12 and Los Angeles on June 17. A final decision will be made after hearings are completed and public comments are reviewed. To e-mail your comment on the proposal, email [email protected]. Comments will be received until August 20.