EPW Hearing Statement: S. 747, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing to examine S. 747, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2019. Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) led a group of 10 EPW members yesterday in introducing the bill. Below is the opening statement of Senator Carper as prepared for delivery and submitted for the record:

 “Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening today’s hearing to examine yet another way we can come together on a policy that is a win-win-win for clean air, our climate and our economy.  In today’s hearing, we will be focusing on legislation that reauthorizes a program that is near and dear to my heart—the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, or DERA. 

“I want to begin by expressing my thanks to my DERA co-pilot, Senator Inhofe.  Senator Inhofe has been a staunch supporter of DERA since day one. I greatly appreciate his continued support and the hard work of his staff on this legislation. I also want to thank our cosponsors from last Congress who have joined us again this year, Chairman Barrasso and Senator Whitehouse. Chairman Barrasso and his staff teamed up with us last Congress to make DERA work even better, and I appreciate his strong support. I also want to thank our new cosponsors this year – Senators Sullivan, Booker, Capito, Gillibrand, Cramer and Van Hollen. 

“In all my years of public service, it’s not every day that I’ve seen programs that generate this much bipartisan support—but, then again, not many programs are as effective and reflect as much commonsense as does DERA.

“Our nation still relies heavily on diesel power to transport commuters and kids, harvest our crops and build our infrastructure.  Diesel engines are found everywhere, from our schools to our ports, and from our highways to our agricultural fields.  Many of my colleagues have heard me say that the great thing about diesel engines is that they last a long time, and the bad thing about diesel engines is that they last a long time.

“Diesel engines are reliable and efficient, but older diesel engines are also big polluters. In fact, dirty diesel engine emissions are some of the biggest contributors to our nation’s smog, soot and black carbon air pollution. These dirty diesel emissions harm our health and our climate. Because of smart emission standards, new and retrofitted diesel engines using American technology are now much cleaner than older diesel engines – over 90 percent cleaner.

“Unfortunately, though, diesel engines run forever and there is little incentive for a diesel engine owner to replace an engine before it breaks down. That’s why today, more than a decade after diesel emission standards were implemented by the EPA, millions of older diesel engines that lack the latest pollution control technology are still in use and will remain in use for decades to come.

“Back in 2005, my close friend, the late-Senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, came to me with an idea to help solve this problem.  He came to me with the idea for DERA. George said to me, let’s provide financial incentives for people to replace or retrofit their older diesel engines with American-made clean vehicle technology.  He told me that we can dramatically reduce diesel emissions, protect our health and create jobs here at home.

“I said, ‘Sign me up!’ And I’ve been DERA’s strongest supporter ever since.

“In 2005, I believe that Congress may have enacted DERA faster than any EPA program before. This simple idea has turned into one of EPA’s most effective clean air program on the books today. For every dollar spent in the DERA program, our nation sees $13 in economic and health benefits. The emission reductions have helped states meet clean air standards and resulted in more than $12.5 billion in health benefits alone since the program’s inception.

“From requests for electric school buses, to replacement ferry engines, to simple diesel retrofits, EPA tells us that the requests keep rolling in – but, unfortunately, demand for DERA far exceeds the program’s available funds. With millions of dirty diesel engines still on American roads, as well as on boats and trains, DERA is as important and relevant today as it was on the day it was first introduced. As a result, it’s as important for us to work together to ensure that every state, tribe and territory can benefit from this unique program.

“At a time when our country is looking for ways to create jobs, have healthier air and a better climate, cleaning up dirty diesel engines through DERA stands out as a prime example of what works.

“Today, I’m proud to continue the bipartisan tradition that began more than 15 years ago thanks to the leadership of our good friend, Senator George Voinovich.  The torch has now been passed to a new generation of leaders – all of us.  I look forward to working with each of you to pass, reauthorize and improve the effectiveness of DERA in this Congress and into the future.

“Thank you again for convening our hearing this morning, Mr. Chairman, and I thank our witnesses for joining us here today, as well.  I think we’re going to have a great discussion and make George proud of the work we’re about to do in his memory and with his blessing.”