July 9, 2007 12:00 PM, EDT

EPA Proposes Tightening Ozone Standard

Trucking Says Retrofits Could Be Required

By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter

This story appears in the July 9 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of ozone in the air, which trucking industry and manufacturing officials said could lead to retrofits of older trucks.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson announced the proposal on June 21, and it included a recommendation of an ozone standard of 0.07 to 0.075 part per million, down from 0.08 ppm now.

“By strengthening the ozone standard, EPA is keeping our clean air momentum moving into the future.” said Johnson.

EPA said that ozone “is not emitted directly into the air but is created through a reaction of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions in the presence of sunlight.”

Although EPA did not say how the lower ozone standard might be reached, representatives of trucking and of engine makers said they already had made strides in reducing NOx, leaving retrofits of old trucks the only practical target for potential new regulations.

Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations, said EPA has been reducing NOx emissions from new truck engines since October 2002, with the first of three new emissions standards, including regulations that took effect in January.

The new standards, which get even tighter in 2010, have brought NOx emissions from new trucks so low that, if EPA wants to reduce ozone by limiting NOx in the air, it would have to look elsewhere, Kedzie said.
“You cannot clean up new engines to a level above and beyond where we are in 2007 and 2010,” he said.

Kedzie said that while air regulators could look at other sources of NOx, such as industrial plants and passenger vehicles, “it does leave out an obvious target, which are older engines.”

“If they decide to specifically address the trucking industry, how they could do it is through retrofits of older trucks,” Kedzie said. “That means additional add-on devices to reduce NOx, and that comes at a cost.”
Kedzie said such devices can cost thousands of dollars per truck.

Joe Suchecki, a spokesman for the Engine Manufacturers Association, agreed, saying that “there’s not much else we can do at this point in time to get NOx emissions from new engines down.

“We’ve already got the regulation in place,” he said, and those regulations call for NOx emissions of “near zero” by 2010.

Suchecki said that the new standard “would put more pressure on states to retrofit older diesel vehicles.”
“I think for most of the states, the major source of NOx is now mobile sources, and if they lower the standard from .08 to .07, they’ll just have to look harder at those older engines or use restrictions,” he said.

EPA acknowledged the progress trucking had made in reducing NOx emissions in its rule.

“Benefits from engine standards increase modestly each year as older, more-polluting vehicles and engines are replaced with newer, cleaner models. In time, these programs will yield substantial emission reductions. Benefits from fuel programs generally begin as soon as new fuel is available.”

In its proposal, EPA said that “mobile sources and the electric power industry were responsible for 78% of annual NOx emissions in 2004.”

Kedzie said the federal government doesn’t have the power to mandate retrofits of older trucks, but it can designate counties as “non-attainment areas” for the ozone standards, and then the states develop plans to reduce ozone.

“They may or may not include retrofits,” he said, “but that’s a tool in their toolbox.”

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association said the change “could result in anywhere from 398 to 533 new counties being classified as in ‘non-attainment’ status” and therefore at risk of losing highway funding.

In 2004, the last time EPA designated non-attainment areas, it listed 474 counties from the total of 3,077 counties in the United States.

The last time EPA proposed a change, in 1997, the agency proposed moving the standard from 0.12 ppm to the current 0.08 ppm.

ATA and other associations unsuccessfully challenged that change before the U.S. Supreme Court. The industry groups argued that EPA needed to examine the cost to industry of compliance, but the court found that the agency did not need to do so (3-5-01, p. 1).