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State going after diesel

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

New regulations are coming down the pipe for the owners of diesel-powered equipment, and some local business owners are none too happy.

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 particulate exhaust.

One proposal deals with off-road equipment, such as backhoes and excavator, and is nearing the final phases. The other, aimed at on-road equipment, is still in its infancy.

The regulations would require owners of on- and off-road diesel equipment such as graders, excavator, dump trucks and hauling trucks, to either replace equipment or install new emission control systems into their vehicles’ engines beginning as early as 2009.

“There are federal [air quality] standards that we have to meet that California generally does not meet. The [air board] is looking at every possible way to get to obtainment,” said air board manager Tony Brasil, who spoke at a public meeting in Truckee on Tuesday regarding the regulations.

Brasil said on-road diesel equipment owners are not being singled out.

“You’re, like, eighth on the list and there are two more major undertakings after this” for on-road and agriculture vehicles, he said

Under the terms, which are still subject to change, equipment owners will either have to re-power or replace 10 percent of the horsepower of a “dirty fleet” each year, or apply particulate matter retrofits called VDECS to 20 percent of their fleet’s horsepower each year until the fleets meets a benchmark average.

Small fleets must reach full attainment by 2025 and medium and large fleets must reach full attainment by 2020.

“To CARB’s credit, they are going to target all users, but I don’t think our boys liked being first on the list,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens. “Why don’t you go after the big users first ” the railroads, the long-haul truckers, those that put out the vast majority of pollutants? Small business doesn’t have the resources to fight the big fight.”

The off-road regulation, which is scheduled for approval by the board in May, is the most costly state regulation ever handed down by the air board, at an estimated price tag of up to $3.3 billion, according to Brasil.

“It’s a little more regulation, you are going to have to spend a little more, but the bottom line is that we’ve been able to pollute like hell for years, and the time has come,” said Bob Ferwerda, a local, semi-retired engineering and building contractor with a small fleet. “It’s not unreasonable. You can modernize your fleet with time, so I’m totally in favor of it.”

The new rules will apply to the entire state, but a number of counties are already on par with air quality standards. In those counties, which do not include Nevada and Placer counties, the particulate matter quotas will apply, but not the turn-over standard, according to Brasil.

Companies that are based out-of-state but which work in California will have to meet emission requirements for vehicles that cross the border.

“There are a few glitches, but I think it’s going to be OK; they’re not out to drain us. I think that we are all worried financially, but I think it’s going to work out pretty smooth,” said Kenny Deal, owner of Deal’s Excavating in Truckee. “Small businesses don’t need to comply until 2015. Shoot, by then I hope I’m not even doing this anymore.”


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