House Passes Carper-Backed Bill for Clean Diesel

Senator Touts Bipartisan Bill To Preserve Diesel Retrofit Program That Reduces Pollution

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today praised the House of Representatives for passing his bipartisan Senate bill that allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue funding a program to reduce emissions from the 11 million vehicle diesel engines, noting that cleaner diesel engines will help reduce air toxic pollution along Delaware’s "cancer cluster" corridors.

This afternoon, the House overwhelmingly approved an amended version of Sen. Carper’s bipartisan diesel emissions bill, and that revised House bill is expect to pass the Senate within a next week.

"This bill is a small fix with big consequences for cleaning up our nation’s diesel vehicle fleet and keeping our air clean and toxic-free," said Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Environmental factors, such as poor air quality caused by old dirty diesel engines, can lead to higher-than-average cancer rates, particularly for those living along heavily-traveled interstate highways, like I-95 in my home state of Delaware. There is no silver bullet to reduce the environmental risks that lead to cancer, but cleaning up emissions from our nation’s diesel fleet is certainly a positive step."

The Carper-backed bill, which has widespread support from environmental and public health groups, industry, and state and local governments, gives the EPA the authority to accept, as part of air quality settlements, diesel emission reduction supplemental environmental projects.

Supplemental environmental projects are projects that polluters voluntarily agree to perform as part of environmental enforcement settlements with the EPA. In the past, the EPA has used supplemental environmental projects to retrofit diesel engines, including those on school buses, with new technology that reduces pollution and emissions.

Unfortunately, EPA’s current policy will not allow the agency to accept supplemental environmental projects if the same activities are also funded by Congress. As a result, the EPA has refused to accept diesel reduction projects because in fiscal year 2008 Congress provided $49 million for a diesel emissions reduction program, established under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), which Sen. Carper co-authored in 2005.

Unless Congress enacts this legislation, the EPA will not have the authority to accept additional diesel retrofit projects funded by settlement agreements.

Between 2003 and 2006, diesel emission reduction supplemental environmental projects funded more than $60 million in diesel retrofit projects, mostly involving retrofitting dirty diesel school buses. EPA estimates that diesel retrofit projects have a 13-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio, which means $60 million in polluter fines have produced $780 million in health benefits, ranging from reduced asthma cases to fewer cardiopulmonary deaths.

The House version of this budget-neutral bill also adds the District of Columbia to the 50 states that may participate in the DERA grant program to reduce diesel emissions. The Senate must agree to the amended House version before it can be sent to the President to be signed into law.