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State Air Regulators Consider New Rules to Require Cleaner Diesel Trucks

Farm Bureau spokeswoman says they can live with rule

BY JAKE HENSHAW, Sacramento Bureau – December 11, 2008

In the next two days, state regulators will consider giving big truckers new marching orders to help clean up the air.

By Friday, the California Air Resources Control Board may require nearly a million diesel trucks to phase in exhaust filters and new engines at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars and more per truck.

While the air board said it has $1 billion to help pay the bill, small truckers say the cost of complying with the new rules will drive some of them out of business, especially in the current recession.

“It would be devastating to both the local and state economy, not only for the trucking company but their families and their vendors,” said Kelly Kyle of Faulkner Trucking Co. in Tulare. “The snowball effect would be unbelievable.”

The agriculture industry, which uses a wide array of diesel engines, has negotiated changes with the air board staff that its representatives said their industry can live with.

“I wouldn’t say [the ag industry] is happy with the [proposed] rule,” said Patricia Stever, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau. “We are at the point where we think the compromise can work for the industry.”

Preventing deaths

For clean-air advocates and the air board staff, the proposed rule is essentially a lifesaver, intended to control the diesel emissions of tiny particulates known as PM 2.5 and of nitrogen oxides that lodge in the lungs and help form smog.

The air board estimates that between 2010 and 2025 the rule would prevent 9,400 premature deaths, cut the number of asthma-related cases by 150,000 and lead to 950,000 fewer lost work days. It says the economic value of these health benefits is between $48 billion and $68 billion.

“In a way, people have been subsidizing the trucking industry with their health,” said Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Regional comments

The proposed rule has drawn a range of comment from some regional air boards.

The San Joaquin Valley San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has not formally acted on it, but Executive Director Seyed Sadredin said the Valley needs major emission cuts by diesel trucks because they contribute half the pollution.

“If we shut down all the business in the Valley, we wouldn’t make a dent [in the pollution problem] if we still had those trucks [unregulated],” he said.

The proposed rule is the latest and most significant step by the air board to extend control over diesel emissions in the state.

Diesel emissions from trucks make up 28 percent of all the PM 2.5 and NOx pollution produced in the state, according to the air board.

It’s driven in part by the need to meet federal air- quality standards so the state will avoid the potential penalty of losing millions of dollars in transportation funds.

The penalty for truckers who fail to comply with air pollution rules can be up to a $1,000 per violation per day for some offenses.


The new rule would set out a schedule for all diesel trucks, based in or out of state, driven more than 1,000 miles a year generally to install filters for particulates between 2010 and 2014 and to upgrade engines to 2010 equivalents between 2012 and 2022.

There are a variety of exceptions, including fleets of three or fewer trucks, which wouldn’t have to meet new requirements until 2013.

Agriculture truckers who drive them seasonally or for other low-mileage uses such as fertilizer deliveries also would get more time to comply.

For example, any agricultural truck traveling less than 10,000 miles annually is exempt until 2023, with other delays based on a combination of mileage and truck age.

Specialty vehicles

Further, specialty agricultural vehicles such as nurse rigs and cotton module trucks will get unique treatment.

The state air board estimates the cost of meeting the new regulations at about $5.5 billion between 2010 and 2025 and points to its $1 billion in financial aid as a way to help the neediest truckers.

“A drop in the bucket,” Sadredin said of the money, noting that only about half the funds would go to truckers and the rest to uses such as rail and ports.

Sadredin said the San Joaquin Valley alone needs $2 billion to pay half the cost for truckers, who then would have to cover the remaining cost.

Loan program

The state air board is working on a low-interest, government-backed loan program that would leverage a $50 million pot of aid up to $350 million to help truckers pay the bills, said Erik White, chief of the office responsible for the diesel-engine regulations.

“We think that is emerging as a cost-effective way for the state to spend its resources and still provide relief,” White said.

Truckers said that some of them can’t qualify for state aid because they don’t drive enough miles, and that the recession makes any financing difficult and has already driven enough truckers out of business to reduce their industry’s emissions.

“Cleaning up the air is fine,” said Jim Ganduglia of Ganduglia Trucking in Fresno, joining other truckers in calling for more time to comply to avoid job losses. “They don’t care about the economy.”

The state air board concedes that there will be some job losses if the new diesel rules are adopted — between 4,600 and 13,600 jobs in the highest cost year of 2013 — but contends that the new rule will contribute to the growth of green jobs.

“In the long run, what you are going to see is the California fleet is going to be more modern, more efficient and new industries are going to spring up,” White said, though he conceded that he hasn’t been able to calculate the number of new jobs.

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