Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Diesel Emission Reduction Act Renewed By Congress

Lost in the spotlight of the tax-compromise legislation, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the START Treaty ratification, the 111th Congress did manage to pass a few other pieces of legislation during its final two weeks.

On Dec. 20, following an earlier Senate approval, the House passed a five-year extension of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature.

The bill, if signed, would authorize providing grants and loans worth $500 million over the next five years to reduce emissions from existing diesel engines through the installation of retrofitting equipment.

First authorized in 2005, and set to at the end of fiscal year 2011 if not extended, the DERA has provided $465 million to retrofit programs over the past five years.
The catch is that the bill only authorizes the $500 million in funds, but does not appropriate them. The 112th Congress must take up that battle in the coming session.
According to data from the Diesel Technology Forum, retrofit diesel vehicles emit 20 percent to 90 percent less emissions.

Supporters of the bill claim that for every $1 of DERA money spent over the past five years, the nation has experienced $20 in environmental or health benefits.
Federal estimates suggest that there are as many as 11 million older diesel trucks and other commercial vehicles or pieces of equipment in service.

With retrofit devices typically costing in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $20,000, the $500 million target for DERA would only provide enough funds to fully cover the costs of roughly 25,000 to 50,000 retrofits.

A program at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to bring all ports-servicing trucks up to 2007 or newer emission standards began in October 2008 and though DERA funds did not play a role, the private trucking industry did spend more than $600 million to bring the less than 10,000 trucks still servicing the two ports into compliance, mainly through the purchase of newer vehicles.

The DERA legislation was introduced in the Senate by Delaware Senator Tom Carper and Ohio Senator George Voinovich. The House version was sponsored by California Representatives Doris Matsui and Laura Richardson.