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Court upholds EPA reduced-emissions rule

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to make heavy-duty trucks and buses run cleaner. This regulation requires reduced emissions from diesel trucks and buses and lower sulfur level in diesel fuel. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said, “We estimate that some 8,300 premature deaths, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children will also be prevented annually.”

Arguments raised by petitioners were rejected by the court, including claims that advanced after-treatment technology would not be available. The court also denied claims that bringing the level of sulfur content to 15 parts per million required by the rule was not needed to enable this technology and that it would result in supply shortfalls of diesel fuel.

Beginning with model year 2007, emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses will be reduced by 95%. Sulfur in diesel fuel must be lowered to enable pollution-control technology to be effective on these trucks and buses. The program requires a 97% reduction in the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel from its current level of 500 parts per million to 15 parts per million.

Use of advanced after-treatment technology similar to catalytic converters used on cars will be installed to achieve the cleaner emission standards. Reduced levels of sulfur in diesel fuel are needed to facilitate introduction of this technology.

When the rule is fully implemented, 2.6 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions will be reduced each year. Soot or particulate matter will be reduced by 110,000 tons a year. More than 360,000 asthma attacks and 386,000 cases of respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children likely will be avoided every year. In addition, 1.5 million lost work days, 7,100 hospital visits, and 2,400 emergency room visits for asthma will be prevented.

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