"Diesel trucks and buses are among the dirtiest pollution sources, causing thousand of premature deaths each year, and many more cases of serious illness," said Howard Fox of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, attorney for four of the public health and environmental organizations who requested intervention. "For too long, these 'pollution factories on wheels' have been getting a free ride. It's high time for them to do their share to clean the air and protect public health."
In January EPA issued regulations requiring that pollution from new heavy-duty trucks and buses be cut dramatically. Particle pollution (soot), responsible for large numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and missed workdays each year, is to be reduced by 90%. Nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of ozone (smog) that causes asthma attacks, respiratory pain, and reduced lung function, must be cut by 95%. To make these reductions possible, the new EPA standards also mandate a 97% cut in diesel fuel sulfur. The reduction of sulfur is critical because sulfur in diesel fuel damages emission control equipment. The phase-in of the fuel requirement begins in 2006, and the emission requirements in 2007.
"Pollution from diesel trucks and buses also increases risk of lung cancer," said John R. Garrison, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association, one of the organizations seeking to intervene. "A study in Los Angeles found that diesel emissions are responsible for 70% of the overall cancer risk associated with air pollution. Controlling this pollution is one of the best steps we can take to protect public health."
The new regulations are supported by a broad spectrum of environmental and public health organizations, state officials, and even industry groups. However, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association has sued EPA, challenging the rules.