ATA asks California Senate to reject diesel bill

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American Trucking Associations President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves has urged California’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee to reject a pending “magnet bill” that would authorize local air districts to control diesel emissions and dilute the authority of state and federal regulatory agencies over diesel-powered equipment operated at ports, rail yards and airports.

In letters previously sent to state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chair Alan Lowenthal and Senate Environmental Quality Committee Chair Joe Simitian on March 2, Graves described the legislation as “unwise” and strongly urged both committee chairs and their colleagues to oppose it. Copies of the letters also were sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak, members of the two committees, and to the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza. The State Assembly passed the measure in January 2006, and it has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing and the Environmental Quality Committee. The Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing has scheduled a Tuesday, June 20 hearing to debate the bill.

Trucks, trains and ships transport the bulk of goods that move throughout California to major transport facilities where the concentration of diesel-fueled vehicles is perceived to attract particulate matter emissions. The bill would require ports, rail yards and airports to inventory and control emissions at their sites, subject to differing requirements by varied agencies. According to Graves, the bill would require facilities vital to the state’s economy to take responsibility for emissions issues over which they have no legal authority or control. It also would make it difficult, “if not impossible,” to determine responsible parties and enforce the requirements imposed under the bill, he said.

“ATA believes that state and federal governments should continue to be the main regulatory agencies to help maintain consistency over mobile sources that facilitate interstate commerce and business throughout California,” Graves said. “By providing regulatory authority to local air districts to control mobile diesel sources, a diverse set of local, facility-specific requirements will result, creating a patchwork of widely-varied regulations.” In the March letters, Graves reminded the committee chairs that the requirements would be costly to local facilities in terms of planning, implementation, oversight and enforcement, and could vary from facility to facility. This would limit the flexibility of companies serving these facilities.

Numerous programs and requirements already are in place to accomplish the objectives of the bill and significantly reduce any purported health risks over the next few years. These include federally-mandated regulations to reduce diesel particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions through ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and dramatically improved heavy-duty diesel truck engines, various and more stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, and incentives through grants and federal tax cuts under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

State programs include ongoing and future diesel risk reduction measures, financial incentives to retrofit older engines, and an aggressive state program to obtain a 67 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides from rail operations. “Proactive steps currently being taken will provide significant reductions in diesel emissions,” Graves said, noting the bill would overlap with ongoing regulations “bringing confusion and additional bureaucracy to the process.”