Bush administration finalizes off-road diesel rule

Non-road diesel engine and fuel regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency last year were finalized today by the Bush administration.

The “Tier 4” rules are the fourth step in off-road standards EPA began introducing in 1996, and mirror emission rules that already exist for on-road diesel trucks and buses. The new rules vary according to engine size, but most manufacturers will need to reduce nitrogen-oxide levels in new engines to 0.3 grams per brake-horsepower-hour and particulates to .01 grams per brake-horsepower-hour by 2014.

According to EPA, off-road diesel equipment emits 25 percent of nitrogen oxides in the United States. Because the sulfur level for diesel fuel used in off-road equipment is currently unregulated, the sulfur content can be as high as 3,400 parts per million. Under the new regulations, sulfur content in diesel fuel will be reduced to 500 parts per million in 2007, and will drop to 15 parts per million in 2012.

“Although the rule is stringent and costly, we support its major aspects,” said Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, a trade group of petrochemical manufacturers and refiners. “We remain concerned, however, that this rule and its additional expenditures will place further burdens on the already strained supply situation.”

Studies conducted by the EPA have shown that by 2030, the rules could prevent about 9,600 premature deaths annually and reduce asthma and other respiratory problems linked to air pollution. The agency also predicts the regulations will prevent 15,000 heart attacks and up to 1 million lost work days each year.

“We are going to make that burst of black smoke that erupts from diesels a thing of the past,” EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said. “We’re able to accomplish this in large part because of a masterful collaboration with engine and equipment manufacturers, the oil industry, state officials and the public health and environmental communities.”

Christine Vujovich, vice president of Cummins, told Reuters complying with the new regulations will be tough, but her company realizes lower emission levels are necessary and Cummins is working on the technology needed to get to those levels.
The price of off-road equipment is likely to increase slightly, but will vary with the size and complexity of the machine. EPA predicts the emission requirement will cost about 1 to 3 percent of the total purchase price for most equipment. The cost of low-sulfur fuel, on the other hand, will be about 7 cents more per gallon than current diesel fuel. But, according to EPA, that cost could be cut to 4 additional cents a gallon if you consider that low-sulfur fuel could significantly reduce engine maintenance.

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Greg Smith, spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, said ARTBA is “generally supportive of the emissions requirements because it is better for the industry to have one good national emission standard instead of many state or local emission requirements.”

To find out more about the EPA’s final off-road emissions rule, click on the link to the right.