Senate EPW Leaders Introduce Diesel Emissions Bill

Legislation Is Designed to Promote Health Benefits by Improving Air Quality
trucks on highway
Funding is meant to facilitate the voluntary replacement or installation of retrofits on existing heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines. (CHUYN/Getty Images)

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Legislation that would reauthorize the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act through fiscal 2029 was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is the bill’s lead sponsor. He explained the legislation is designed to promote health benefits by improving air quality nationwide. Administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the DERA program is backed by federal grants.

“Since its implementation in 2005, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act has been one of our nation’s most cost-effective tools for reducing diesel emissions,” Carper said June 22.

“Our bipartisan bill would ensure that the DERA program continues to deliver cleaner air, healthier communities and economic benefits across our country. Congress has already reauthorized DERA on two other occasions,” the chairman added. “Now, I look forward to working with Sen. [Shelley Moore] Capito and our colleagues on again reauthorizing this common-sense, clean air program.”

“The DERA program is a common-sense example of how we can successfully address emissions using policy carrots instead of regulatory sticks,” Capito (R-W.Va.) said. “As an original sponsor of the last reauthorization of the DERA program, I am proud to join Chairman Carper and once again lead this effort, which will help improve air quality and grow our economy at the same time.”

The bill would update the program at the authorization level of $100 million annually. The funding is meant to facilitate the voluntary replacement or installation of retrofits on existing heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines.

“The program has upgraded tens of thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment, and DERA funds have been awarded to projects in every state in the country, in addition to [Washington, D.C.] and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa,” according to background information the committee provided. “Through fiscal year 2018, EPA estimates that total lifetime emission reductions achieved through DERA funding are 16,800 tons of particulate matter, 491,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, 5.3 million tons of carbon dioxide, and over 11,000 tons of black carbon.”

Co-sponsors included Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). The legislation has yet to be considered at a committee of jurisdiction.

Carper and former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) co-authored DERA via the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Proponents of the bill, citing potential health benefits, announced their endorsement. “Diesel emissions have been dramatically reduced thanks to the bipartisan Diesel Emissions Reduction Act,” Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said in a statement that accompanied the bill’s introduction.

“But heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses are among the most polluting vehicles on the road and still contribute to over half of the ozone- and particle-forming emissions that are putting the health of communities at risk,” Wimmer went on. “We must continue efforts to eliminate the health harms from dirty trucks and buses, and the DERA program is a key component of that success.”

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In a 2022 report to Congress about the DERA program, EPA officials concluded, “From the onset of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 until the recently reauthorized Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the DERA program’s wide-reaching benefits have positively impacted human health, local air quality and the global climate.”

“EPA prioritizes diesel emissions reduction projects that provide immediate health and environmental benefits and target areas of greatest need,” per the report. “The DERA legislation emphasizes maximizing health benefits, conserving diesel fuel, and serving areas of poor air quality.”