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April 11, 2019 3:30 PM, EDT

Senate Panel Advances Diesel Emissions Legislation

exhaust from diesel truck Getty Images

Legislation that aims to facilitate emissions reduction from diesel engines was easily approved April 10 by the committee that oversees surface transportation policy in the U.S. Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2019 would reauthorize the program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through 2024 to assist firms with rebuilding or retrofitting diesel engines. The objective is for those updated engines to be able to comply with pollution standards.

Carper

The Environment and Public Works panel advanced the measure to the floor of the Senate by voice vote. Carper, the panel’s ranking Democrat, had initially authored the bill more than a decade ago with former Ohio Sen. George Voinovich (R).

“Year after year, DERA has cost-effectively reduced air pollution and fueled American job creation,” Carper said in a statement soon after the vote. “Boasting $13 of health and economic benefits for every $1 of federal investment, it’s no wonder that DERA enjoys such broad, bipartisan support.”

“With today’s vote, we’re one step closer to making sure this bipartisan tradition, imagined and incepted by my dear friend Sen. Voinovich, will continue to boost economic growth and encourage environmental progress,” Carper added. Voinovich died in 2016.

George Voinovich

Voinovich, an original author of the bill, died in 2016. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Co-sponsors of the bill include committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), as well as Republican Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, along with Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act supports innovation-led solutions to environmental protection. Upgrading diesel engines not only reduces nitrogen oxide but also emissions of both black carbon and carbon dioxide,” said Barrasso. “Black carbon is a component of particulate matter that has a global warming potential that may be thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.”

Senate floor managers have yet to schedule a floor vote for the bill. In March, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers unveiled their version.

“This is a critical piece of legislation that helps address the climate crisis and makes our diesel cars and trucks more fuel efficient,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsoring the House version.

Stakeholders such as the American Association of Port Authorities voiced their support. In a statement to the committee, AAPA noted: “This funding has been key to incentivizing and expanding port environmental programs to improve air quality impacted by port operations.”

EPA is tasked with distributing DERA grants. It announced that it anticipates awarding about $40 million in competitive grants for its clean diesel funding assistance program. The agency cautions that older diesel engines emit higher amounts of pollution.

On its website, EPA explained: “Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly.”