Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Air board adopts strict rules on diesel exhaust

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Thanks to reader Andy in Germany for reminding me about this report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

To control exhaust emissions you have to tackle the problem from two directions – the fuel and the engine it is burnt in.  These new rules refer to the engines. And I am here quoting from the CARB Press Release

The Air Resources Board today adopted two critical regulations directly aimed at cleaning up harmful emissions from the estimated one million heavy-duty diesel trucks that operate in California. Beginning January 1, 2011, the Statewide Truck and Bus rule will require truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs, with nearly all vehicles upgraded by 2014. Owners must also replace engines older than the 2010 model year according to a staggered implementation schedule that extends from 2012 to 2022.

BC could, if it wanted to, adopt stricter vehicle emission regulations, but it is unlikely to, as the same howl of protest would be heard from the truckers. Exactly why they think their need to make money trumps our need to keep our lungs working properly is probably something that will not get discussed either.

BC is already planning to ensure that children playing in schoolyards are exposed to as much diesel particulate as possible. Of course the EA for the SFPR glossed over the issue – but we do know that exposure to diesel exhaust (which is a human carcinogen) drops off the further you are from the centre line of a highway. With amazing arrogance, the proponents of the SFPR simply ignored the primary schools that are adjacent to, or a block or two away from, the road. They also state that increased health impacts expected to result from the increased truck traffic and its exhaust are also good for the economy since they create more work for our doctors and hospitals.

Under NAFTA, most regulations of this kind are supposed to be coordinated – so that the US, Canada and Mexico have the same set of rules. This is so that trade may be facilitated. It has nothing whatever to do with concerns that the health of the citizens of these countries should be protected. As usual its a race to the bottom. California is to be applauded for taking a principled stand and providing some much needed leadership. Again.

Air board officials estimate that the rule will save the lives of 9,400 people between 2011 and 2025. A related study by UC Berkeley and Harvard researchers concluded that truck drivers and dockworkers who breathe diesel soot on the job have higher rates of lung cancer and death than other workers.

Eventually, the rest of the US and Canada will fall into line, kicking and screaming along the way. That is what has nearly always happened with regulations of this kind since nowhere else has a body quite like CARB.

We used to have a body here called the Lower Fraser Valley Air Quality Advisory Committee that used to discuss these issues. It didn’t make rules – or even press all that hard for new ones. Even that got chopped.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 14, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Posted in air pollution

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