EPA finalizes engine penalties

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In a blow to industry efforts to delay or reconsider the consent decree, the Environmental Protection Agency last month issued its final non-conformance penalty (NCP) rule for heavy-duty diesel engine manufacturers. The decision to issue a final rule on non-conformance penalties reinforces reports that the White House has turned down requests from some lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), for a postponement of the Oct. 1 deadline.

Under the final rule, emissions above 2.5 grams of non-methane hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NMHC+NOx) per brake-horsepower-hour are subject to NCPs. In addition, the rule establishes an upper limit of 4.5 grams for light and medium heavy-duty engines and 6.0 grams for heavy heavy-duty engines.

Many of the first-year penalties under the final rule are lower than those proposed in January. The proposed penalty for a heavy heavy-duty engine, for example, was $9,043 for engines emitting 3.5 grams NMHC+NOx per brake-horsepower-hour. Under the final rule, the penalty is $6,946. All penalties for medium heavy-duty engines are lower than those proposed in January. The final penalties for light heavy-duty engines, however, are slightly higher. To put pressure on engine makers to comply, penalties increase over time.

Although EPA shaved most penalties a bit from the proposed rule, affected engine makers are hardly jumping for joy. Caterpillar said that the penalties were higher than what was envisioned in the consent decree. “We’re disappointed in the EPA’s ruling, but the issue of penalties will now be resolved in the courts,” the company said in a prepared statement. “We will also have EPA-certified engines in October 2002, which will be essentially unchanged from our current industry-leading engines, but with reduced emissions.”

Caterpillar is the only engine maker that has announced that it will have no engines certified to the 2.5-gram standard by Oct. 1. The company says it will have a fully compliant engine early next year. Bridge engines available for sale this fall will rate between 3 and 3.1 grams NMHC+NOx, a Caterpillar spokesman said. But even though other makers will have or expect to have fully certified engines by Oct. 1, they generally won’t have full certification for all engine ratings by then.

The American Trucking Associations, which publicly joined the fight this spring, expressed disappointment with the apparent decision to move forward with the consent degree. “America’s motor carriers should not be used as a laboratory to test unproven technologies,” said ATA President William Canary. “All we want is a diesel engine that has been responsibly tested and one that has been proven to work.”