The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation re-authorizing a program that provides state and federal funding to subsidize the cost of modernizing older diesel engines. The reauthorization extends the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) for an additional five years.
The House action, which took place Dec. 20, makes it possible for the legislation to head to President Obama's desk for signature. The Senate passed its version of the legislation on Dec. 16.
First signed into law in 2005, the bill establishes voluntary national and state grant and loan programs to reduce diesel emissions by upgrading and modernizing older diesel engines and equipment. DERA funds are used to clean up the nation's older diesel trucks by retrofitting or replacing them with new technologies that significantly reduce particulate matter and emissions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 11 million older diesel trucks, buses, and equipment are still in use today. DERA's supporters say that when all of the older diesels have been replaced by new models that meet current EPA standards, at least 110,000 tons of particulate matter (more commonly known as soot) and 2.6 million tons of nitrous oxide emissions will be eliminated from the nation's air. That is the equivalent of taking 13 million of today's trucks off the roads, they say.
"Passage of the DERA reauthorization will play a major role in our nation's effort to expand our clean air initiatives," says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a non-profit organization that raises awareness of the importance of diesel engines, fuel, and technology. "In its first five years, DERA has proven to be one of the nation's most successful clean air programs. In addition, DERA has provided an average of $20 worth of environmental and health benefits for every $1 spent. That's a tremendous return on investment for any federal program."
Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities, which actively lobbied for the bill's re-authorization, commended Congress' action. The grants available through DERA have been "invaluable" in reducing emissions from older engines idling at the nation's seaports, Nagle says. Additionally, Nagle believes that the legislation helps create jobs for American workers as the installation of new engines or retrofit technology usually occurs near where the engine is used.
"The DERA program helps ensure that verified emissions reduction technologies are put into place earlier than would happen otherwise," Nagle says. "Reducing emissions from diesel engines provides significant public health benefits for port communities and port workers. Lowering emissions from engines used in ships, trucks, trains and other port-related freight-handling equipment has improved air quality for entire metropolitan areas."