Thursday, January 16, 2014

Diesel Starts with Die...?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has brought the health effects of goods movement to a national stage.

Although any facility or equipment operator doing business in California will see these discussions as old hat, those outside of the Golden State may be in for a rude awakening. Policy makers have begun to align the goals of health and community activists with national policy goals for the future of the goods movement system in the United States especially in around maritime port complexes in the US. This has led to the emergence of a renewed discussion around the consequences of our global marketplace on the future health of our country. Environmental, health and community activists see this as a national issue and have turned to California to inspire and encourage the control of Diesel emissions associated with the movement of goods in the United States.

One question that permeated the discussion over the adoption of in-use diesel regulations in California is when other states are going to follow suit. One reason that other states have not jumped on the diesel control bandwagon is the lack of regulatory authority. California is unique because several air districts in the state are in non-attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the EPA to set NAAQS for the entire country which all states are required to meet. 

This is a unique form of cooperative federalism where the feds set the standards and the states act on their own to achieve the standards. The feds have the final say in the approval or denial of these State Implementation Plans (SIPs), the basic roadmaps prepared by states to demonstrate how the NAAQS are going to be met for the target years. If a state fails to provide an enforceable SIP or cannot enforce the standards within an approved SIP, the federal government will step in and enforce or write the standards to achieve the NAAQS. 

Granted, that was a pretty sparse explanation of a very complicated process, but more or less, that is the gist. Other states do not have the regulatory muscle to pass rules similar to the on-road truck and bus rule in California, which is why for now, outside of some limited port restrictions in other states, California has gone it alone, and has so far been relatively successful in implementing the in-use standards on heavy duty truck operators. The rule has also been successful in sending non-compliant trucks out of state or out of country, effectively exporting emissions to other jurisdictions.
Nevertheless, the only real hope for a consistent, nationally enforceable in-use diesel engine standard ports or otherwise, is to have the feds write their own national truck rule with state implementation required under any proposed SIP. Every Heavy duty diesel truck in the US would need to adhere to the standards unless an exemption is requested. Compliance would be achieved through a mix of financial incentives such as guaranteed loans, grants and buy downs with enforcement of the standards through a mix of state agency reporting and inspections with possible DMV registration bans of particular model year engines. 

Anational truck regulation would be the only concept that would be nationally enforceable; effectively removing the states from the regulatory development process and limiting the possibility of multiple rules for multiple jurisdictions or individual challenges to localized emission reduction efforts.  The national rule would also cease the exporting of the old diesel engines to other parts of the country; trucks would either need to be scrapped or moved outside the country.

Time will tell how this all pans out, it is worth it to note however that environmental, community and health groups are rallying around the need to control emissions from the national goods movement system and federal regulators are listening. The low hanging fruit of emissions reductions has and will continue to be the Heavy Duty Trucking fleet. Regardless of how one feels about the health effects of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) exposure, all on-road, and even non-road diesel equipment operators need to understand that they will continue to be in the crosshairs for emissions reductions until the diesel pollutants associated with negative health effects from uncontrolled engines go the way of the Dodo bird. 

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