High cost$ for clean air | SierraSun.com

High cost$ for clean air

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunMike Clauss gets into a piece of construction equipment at the Clauss Excavation yard in Tahoe City. Clauss owns 18 pieces of equipment that run on diesel. The California Air Quality Board is trying to pass a rule saying that all diesel engines need to be updated to comply with new air quality standards. Replacing engines costs anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 each.

California policy makers are continuing their efforts to curb emissions and clean up the state’s air and water. But two new proposals from the Air Resources Board have some politicians and business owners concerned about backlash.

The California Air Resources Board has set forth two proposals to reduce diesel engine emissions by 85 percent by 2020 in an effort to “protect the public from the harmful effects of … particulate exhaust.”

The regulations would require owners of on- and off-road diesel-powered equipment such as graders, excavators, dump trucks and hauling trucks, to either replace equipment or install new emission control systems into their vehicles’ engines.

“It would definitely cause us some pain,” said Jerry Krug, owner of Advanced Asphalt in Truckee.

Krug’s fleet includes at least 20 pieces of off-road diesel equipment and at least 10 pieces of on-road diesel equipment to service customers in Truckee, Reno, Garderville and beyond, he said.

The Air Resources Board has estimated that retrofitting engines to meet specifications will cost owners between $7,000 and $15,000 a piece for newer equipment, and between $45,000 to $90,000 a piece for pre-1988 models.

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“Before we would spend $1 million to retrofit our equipment, we would move our business to Nevada,” Krug said.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors has voiced concerns to the Air Resources Board about the economic impact that such wide-stretching regulations could have on small business owners, particularly those in rural areas such as Tahoe.

Construction makes up 15 percent of Nevada County’s economy, and 12 percent of Placer County’s economy, but most of the businesses employ only a handful of employees, according to Nevada County and the Sacramento Regional Research Institute.

“We have to take into consideration the economics of the issue,” said Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz. “You can’t close down an industry overnight without the time to get these things taken care of. We know that we have an air pollution problem, but we need to go about this in a way that considers both the environment and the economy.”

Some funding will be available through local air districts to assist business owners in making the switch, said Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

In another effort to help lessen the blow to business and equipment owners, the Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition, an information resource based in Southern California, has proposed a “fleet average” option to the Air Resources Board that would allow owners to keep some pieces of older equipment, so long that others were in compliance.

“It’s possible, but it’s not set in stone,” Martin said of the fleet average option.

There are more than 170,000 pieces of diesel off-road equipment in California, about 60 percent of which were manufactured before any emissions standards were in place for those engines, according to Mike Lewis, Executive Vice President of the Construction Industry Air Quality Coalition.

“This is really the first time that the state will be requiring you to get rid of some piece of equipment that still has useful life left,” Lewis said. “They want to force a turnover that will reduce emissions, but we are looking at something that is going to cost the industry somewhere around $10 billion in the next 10 to 12 years. There just isn’t that kind of money around.”

The proposed regulations serve in part to support the introduction of a new era of clean diesel trucks that will roll off assembly lines this year.

“This new year signals the arrival of a generation of clean diesel trucks that will fundamentally change the way people think about diesel engine technology in this country,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum in a release. “New clean diesel trucks sold beginning in 2007 will produce 90 percent fewer emissions of particles and significantly lower emissions of nitrogen oxide [NOx] than trucks built in 2006.”

New trucks and buses will be the first class of equipment to benefit from clean diesel.

While 2006 trucks or buses already produced only one-eighth the tailpipe exhaust compared to those built in 1990, new vehicles will be even cleaner, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and it will take 60 trucks built in 2007 to equal the soot emissions of one truck sold in 1988.

The roll-out of these new cleaner engines follows the October 2006 introduction of ULSD fuel, containing only 15 parts per million sulfur content, compared to 500 ppm for the old fuel, for a 97 percent reduction in sulfur, according to the Diesel Technology Forum

For more, check out http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onrdiesel/onrdiesel.htm