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Tahoe residents would breathe easier with diesel plan

Rick Chandler

An effort to adopt the nation’s toughest diesel emission standards will be a boon to El Dorado County in general and the Lake Tahoe Basin in particular, according to a California Air Resources Board spokesman.

“This should be particularly good news to folks in Tahoe,” said CARB Deputy Director of Communications Jerry Martin. “I know that Tahoe is concerned about air quality, and cutting pollution levels in diesel fuels is one of the best ways to accelerate the clean air standards in the basin.”

CARB on Wednesday called for new curbs on emissions from diesel-powered buses, trucks and construction equipment, with the agency’s chairman saying he wants ”near-zero emission diesel within a decade.”



CARB Chairman Alan Lloyd ordered the board’s technical staff to devise regulations that would cut pollutants from on- and off-road diesel engines by 75 percent beginning in 2007.

The rules would affect trucks, buses and a variety of heavy equipment, such as graders, tractors and backhoes, used in construction projects.



”When people think of diesel emissions, they usually think of buses and trucks,” Martin said. “But they forget about heavy farm and construction equipment, which also contribute heavily to the pollution problem. This is important because it hasn’t been regulated much.”

It is estimated that deisel-powered vehicles are responsible for 30 percent of nitrous oxide emissions and 60 to 65 percent of all fine particle emissions in the state.

The proposed rules would not apply to diesel-powered passenger cars or trains, which are regulated separately.

The proposed regulations would be more stringent than the diesel-pollution regulations that will take effect in 2004.

Board officials believe that diesel pollution can be sharply reduced by developing new fuel filtration technology, using new exhaust treatments and cutting the sulfur content of diesel fuel.

Currently, diesel fuel contains as much as 500 parts per million of sulfur. The board wants to reduce that level to 30 ppm. Excessive sulfur damages emission control equipment, the board said.

There are about 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles in California, most of them trucks. They comprise about 2 percent of the total 25 million vehicles on the road. The trucks, however, spew about 30 percent of California vehicles’ smog-forming compounds and about two-thirds of their particulate matter.

Lloyd announced his plan Tuesday at a three-day symposium in Irvine, Calif.

”We are delighted that Californians will be the first beneficiaries of the world’s cleanest diesel technology,” Lloyd said. He also urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt a nationwide, low-sulfur diesel fuel standard.

Representatives of the trucking industry and others claimed that diesel regulation could deal an economic blow to the state.

South Lake Tahoe is in the early stages of converting its STAGE bus fleet to an all-compressed natural gas system, which would eliminate 98 percent of current diesel emissions. The first such CNG bus made its debut in South Shore in mid-September.

“If we’re serious about the health of the Tahoe Basin, then phasing out heavy transit diesel buses is very important,” said interim City Manager Sue Schlerf. “This is what the citizens have demanded.”

Acquisition of the new “clean machine” was part of the Clean Cities Program, a U.S. Department of Energy effort established to promote the use of alternative fuels. Funding for the bus was obtained through a federal grant.

The Lake Tahoe Clean Cities Coalition is currently working to acquire additional funding for new fueling stations and additional CNG buses for South Shore.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report


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