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AGC Tackles California Rule on Off-Road Diesel Emissions

November 13, 2008
AGC of America, AGC of California, and the San Diego Chapter (collectively "AGC") are preparing to petition the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to reopen its rulemaking on emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) from existing fleets of off-road diesel equipment.  CARB's off-road retrofit rule took effect on June 15, 2008, subject to federal approval of CARB’s request for a so-called "waiver of federal preemption."  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to act on California’s request in very great haste and without holding hearings in California.  AGC has notified and will continue to remind both federal and state regulators of the many compelling reasons to take a carefully measured approach to California's request for federal approval of its off-road diesel emission standards, and not to proceed in such great haste. If EPA grants a waiver, CARB's emissions standards will require most of the state's construction contractors to retrofit or replace up to 90 percent of their off-road diesel equipment over a period of just 10 years.  For fleets exceeding 5,000 hp, these standards will take effect March 2010 and decline every year from 2010 to 2020.  The industry estimates that the cost of compliance will reach roughly $13 billion and even the state has put the cost at $3.4 billion.  The federal Clean Air Act generally forbids the states to set emission standards for off-road diesel equipment.  The statute, however, makes an exception for the state of California, and if California's new standards meet with federal approval, other states with air pollution concerns will be free to adopt an identical rule. CARB has told AGC and others that it is already considering modifications of its off-road diesel emission standards in light of factors that CARB has identified on its own initiative.  AGC's recent letters to EPA explain that it would be premature for EPA to act on California’s request for a waiver before CARB completes that process. Since CARB finalized its standards, economic circumstances have dramatically changed and new technology has been slow to arrive.  In addition, the available technology has come into conflict with safety standards.  As the construction industry has slowed down, engine emissions have also dropped, and the environmental benefits of the emission standards have also declined.  Like everyone else, AGC hopes for a cleaner environment, but the construction industry simply cannot bear the cost of the regulators' long delay in setting emission standards for the new equipment available them.  AGC will continue to work with CARB and EPA in the coming weeks and update AGC members throughout the process. For more information, contact Leah Pilconis at (703) 837-5332 or pilconisl@agc.org.
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