From: Don Thompson, Associated Press
Published December 10, 2004 12:00 AM

California Regulators Agree to Require Diesel Emission Upgrades

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Air pollution regulators approved mandatory requirements Thursday to clean up illegal diesel engines, a move made in frustration with the failure of a voluntary plan backed by the trucking industry.


Air quality groups hope California's decision once again ripples across the country, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency struggles with the same nationwide enforcement problem. The decision applies to an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles licensed in other states that drive through California, as well as 58,000 California-licensed trucks.


But the Engine Manufacturers Association suggested it will sue on behalf of its members, who believe they should not have to pay for diesel engine upgrades as required under the state Air Resources Board ruling.


The action is the latest round in a battle that state and federal regulators thought they had won more than six years ago with a $1 billion settlement with truck manufacturers.


The settlement required manufacturers to replace so-called "smog defeat" devices that regulators said illegally bypassed emissions equipment in trucks, buses and recreational vehicles at highway speeds.


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But it required replacement only when heavy-duty engines built between 1993 and 1999 underwent major overhauls, something that happens far less frequently than regulators had expected.


The Air Resources Board estimated only about 18 percent of the state's trucks had the upgrades since the settlement.


In March, the air board agreed to a voluntary plan that called for the industry to reach 35 percent compliance by Nov. 1, with 100 percent compliance phased in by 2008.


But that resulted in an increase of only about a half-percent per month, said board spokesman Jerry Martin.


The industry will now be forced to make the changes in all heavy duty trucks by the end of next year. Medium duty trucks have until the end of 2006.


The air board estimated that removing the bypass devices from state-licensed vehicles would prevent an estimated 30 tons a day of diesel pollution from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from California highways. Out-of-state vehicles produce another six- to nine tons of diesel pollution each day.


Engine Manufacturers Association representatives could not immediately be reached, and California Trucking Association officials did not return repeated telephone messages left over two days.


Source: Associated Press


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