WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court rejected attempts May 3 by some engine makers and fuel refiners to squelch the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 emissions requirements for diesel trucks and buses, adding yet another chapter to the long-running debate over diesel fuel and school buses.
Cummins, Inc., led the suit alleging the EPA acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in mandating its latest emission standards. The National Petroleum Refiners’ Association (NPRA) objected to the EPA’s deadlines, saying that substantial reductions in the sulfur content of diesel fuel should occur in a “reasonable timeframe.” The court discarded the claims, however, dealing an across-the-board rejection to petitioners’ complaints.
The standards, which were issued in the final weeks of the Clinton administration and supported by the Bush administration, require diesel engines to cut particulates and nitrogen oxides by more than 90 percent. It also mandates a 97% reduction in the sulfur of diesel fuel. The new fuel will go into use in mid-2006, and manufacturers are expected to begin rolling out new models next year to burn the new diesel in 2004.
Engine manufacturers argued the technology is not available to meet the more stringent tailpipe emission requirements by 2007, when they will begin to be phased in. The NPRA said the fuel requirements would lead to shortages.
The ruling was praised by unlikely bedfellows – environmentalists, auto manufacturers and diesel engine maker International Truck and Engine Corp. Environmentalists view the tougher bus tailpipe rules as key to tackling a major source of dirty air. Auto manufacturers want refiners to produce more low-sulfur fuel, which is necessary for meeting auto emission standards in diesel cars they hope to sell. International, which signed on to the government’s case as an Intervenor, already is EPA-certified for meeting the 2007 standards in school buses with its Green Diesel Technology.
Studies determining the health impact of school bus diesel emissions have reached contradictory conclusions. While diesel manufacturers have fended off the attacks, they’ve been focused on meeting tough emission standards that go into effect in October. Originally slated for 2004, these requirements were moved to 2002 after a comprise between the EPA and engine makers stemming from a 1998 lawsuit over the issue of NOx emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines. Once the 2002 standards are met, manufacturers now, thanks to the court’s ruling, will have to focus on the 2007 standards.