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States get tougher on air standards

By Larry Dreiling

When it comes to diesel air quality standards, one thing is clear, or will be as clear as the air is intended to be under the Environmental Protection Agency's Tier 4 emissions standards: If you think EPA is tough, wait until you see what some states and locali-ties are intending to do to add further regulations.

"The responsibility for reducing diesel emissions is moving more toward owners and operators rath-er than manufacturers," the Diesel Technology Forum reported in a 2011 white paper. "Historically, reducing emissions from diesel engines and machines has been totally an issue between engine makers and EPA regulators, where new clean air standards were set and manufacturers made design changes to meet the standards.

"Owners and operators simply purchased the new model engines and equipment, and over time, newer engines replace older ones and the overall emissions levels improve as the fleet gets newer. However, this trend is changing."

Since diesel engines are known for their durability, many older machines will remain in use for years to come and begin accounting for a larger share of diesel emissions. Some of the oldest engines and machines have 20 to 40 times the emissions levels of a new Tier 4 engine, the white paper continued.

"As new ozone and particulate standards are adopted over the next five years, state and regional officials will be looking for cost-effective, near-term ways to reduce emissions through requirements or aggressive incentives to accelerate the modernizing and upgrading of existing engines and machines (aka retrofit-ting) to lower emissions levels," the white paper reported.

The state with the toughest regula-tions—often acting as the laboratory for future federal law—is California.

In 2000, the California Air Resources Board adopted the Diesel Risk Reduction Plan to reduce particulate matter emissions: 75 percent from diesel vehicles and engines by 2010, and 85 percent by 2020 (from year 2000 baselines). Since 2001, CARB has approved new regulations for a variety of diesel fleets.

In December 2010, CARB amended its original regulations for on- and off-road heavy-duty diesel vehicles and equipment, delaying the implementation schedule. Regulations for in-use agricultural equipment are still planned according to DTF.

In addition to regulatory action, California has created the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program, one of the largest and oldest voluntary diesel retrofit incentive funding programs in the country. Established in 1998, the program has provided over $680 million from a mix of state and local funds to clean up approximately 24,000 engines. Cumulatively, this has reduced nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions by about 100,000 and 6,000 tons, respectively. Tire taxes and smog check fees fund the program.

In 2006, Californians significantly increased their funding for clean diesel technology through the passage of Proposition 1B, the highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006. Under this measure, the state was authorized to sell $20 billion in bonds, with $1 billion dedicated to the Goods Movement Emissions Reduction Program, and $200 million for the Low Emission School Bus Program.

In 2007, the Air Quality Improvement Program was signed into law, creating a voluntary incentive program administered by CARB to fund clean vehicle and equipment projects as well as air quality research and training. A majority of the program's annual $30 to $40 million has supported the Hybrid Truck and Bus Incentive Project.

These kind of incentives have moved Colorado, a High Plains state with a history of regulation, toward reduction of air pollution—particularly the "brown cloud" air inversion that sometimes hovers over Denver in winter months—into creating a number of air quality improvement laws and regulations that have placed into a considerably more average position in national rankings.

These additional regulations place Colorado into EPA attainment levels for particulate matter discharge is at EPA attainment level, while still ranking ninth for ozone emissions.

The state has a robust biodiesel industry, with 15 retailers and 19 distributors.

The Governor's Biofuels Coalition seeks to educate the public about the benefits of biofuel use and maximize the number of biofuel pumps across the state by providing funding assistance for equipment. The state currently has 14 biodiesel pumps. Denver Public Schools uses B20 in its buses, as does Colorado's Aspen Resorts for its fleet of 30 Sno-Cats since 2002.

The Regional Air Quality Council, established in 1989, has supported several diesel retrofit projects in the metropolitan Denver area since 2003 including the Clean Air Fleets program, the Clean Yellow Fleets for Blue Skies program to reduce school bus emissions and the Diesel Initiative for Retrofit Technology Program which focused on off-road diesel. According to the council, more than 1,000 buses in 18 school districts already have been retrofitted, affecting more than 50,000 Colorado schoolchildren.

A bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007 established renewable fuel standards for diesel and gasoline, based on Colorado production levels of biodiesel and ethanol respectively.

For biodiesel, when annualized production reaches five million gallons for a three-month period, after 90 days diesel fuel must contain at least two percent renewable diesel fuel by volume; and 15 million gallons for a three-month period, after 90 days diesel fuel must contain at least 5 percent renewable diesel fuel by volume.

"Biodiesel has been overshadowed lately by $2 natural gas," said Michael Bowman, an Idalia, Colo., farmer, who serves on the national steering committee of the 25x25 Alliance, a national group committed to having 25 percent of the nation's energy supply come from renewable fuels by 2025.

"The clean energy frontier is right here in Colorado, which means only good things for our economy, environment, and communities," Bowman said. "It's rare to find solutions to energy problems that has support from farmers and ranchers, hunters and anglers, labor unions, conservation groups, and industry, but here in Colorado, we're working together to lead the way."

As the new Tier 4 standards come into view in 2014, DTF highly recommends that equipment owners and dealers stay abreast of state and local laws and regulations in the offing that can regulate emissions, idling times and fuel use.

For more information on diesel issues and technology, visit

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at

Date: 2/4/2013


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