Earthjustice praised today’s federal court decision upholding a key Environmental Protection Agency regulation requiring cleanup of air pollution from diesel trucks. The ruling of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected challenges from both engine manufacturers and the petroleum industry. The result is that Americans will breathe dramatically reduced levels of deadly diesel pollution.
“Diesel trucks and buses have been among the dirtiest pollution sources for years, causing thousands of premature deaths, and many more cases of serious illness, every year,” said Howard Fox of Earthjustice, which intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of public health and environmental groups. “For too long, these big diesel polluters have been getting a free ride by not having to meet the same emissions standards as cars. This rule changes that, placing autos and diesel trucks and buses on a level playing field.”
EPA in January 2001 issued the regulation that requires pollution from new heavy-duty trucks and buses to be reduced dramatically. Responsible for large numbers of deaths, hospitalizations, and missed workdays each year, particle pollution, known as soot, is to be reduced by 90 percent under the rule. Nitrogen oxides, which contribute to the formation of ozone, known as smog, that causes asthma attacks, respiratory pain, and reduced lung function, must be cut by 95 percent under the rule. To make these reductions possible, the rule also mandates a 97 percent cut in diesel fuel sulfur. The reduction of sulfur is crucial because sulfur in diesel fuel damages emission control equipment. The phase-in of the fuel requirement is scheduled to begin in 2006 and the emission requirements are to start in 2007.
EPA estimates that annually the rule will prevent 8,300 premature deaths, more than 9,500 hospitalizations, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children, and more than 1.5 million lost workdays. The rule also will prevent cancers from diesel exhaust, which EPA has found to be a likely carcinogen in humans.
The rule was the result of a year-and-a-half of review and five hearings around the country and is supported by a broad spectrum of environmental and public health organizations, state officials, and even industry groups.
The court’s ruling was issued in National Petrochemical & Refiners Association v. USEPA, D.C. Cir. 01-1052. Full text of the decision is available at http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/200205/01-1052a.txt. Earthjustice is representing four organizations that intervened in the suit: American Lung Association, Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and US Public Interest Research Group. Also intervening is Natural Resources Defense Council.