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A program designed to improve air quality through reduced diesel emissions was included in an annual defense authorization that was passed by the Senate on July 23.
The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act provision of the defense bill would reauthorize through fiscal 2024 a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that aims to reduce the number of older, diesel-powered trucks on the road and facilitate transition in the freight industry to newer equipment for operations along waterways, rails and commercial corridors.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the provision’s sponsor, said the DERA program has helped put cleaner trucks on the road for 15 years.
“DERA effectively reduces the air pollution that hurts our lungs and harms the planet, creating American jobs and a healthier environment,” he said. “DERA also helps our nation reduce our dependence on oil.” It was Carper who, with former Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, authored the original DERA legislation more than a decade ago.
“Cleaning up dirty diesel engines will create cleaner air and more economic opportunity at [a] time when Americans — not just those serving in our military — need it most,” Carper added.
“Oklahoma has successfully used the DERA program as a cost-effective way to reduce pollution of diesel-powered vehicles, including hundreds of school buses, through public-private partnerships, making it possible for businesses to voluntarily upgrade to new, efficient technology while creating jobs,” noted Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and Armed Services Committee chairman. “I’m proud this bipartisan legislation was included in the [National Defense Authorization Act].”
Also sponsoring the provision were Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the chamber’s leadership team, as well as Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Plus, Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island backed the bill. The senators sit on various committees with jurisdiction over freight and transportation policy.
Last year, the Diesel Emission Reduction Act Coalition called on Senate funding leaders to advance the program.
“The DERA voluntary program has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the committee and in Congress generally, and we are hopeful of similar support this year, as well,” the Coalition’s members said. “It has adopted many cost-saving administrative practices, such as the inclusion of a rebate program applicable to school buses and construction equipment that speed the delivery of program funds with a minimum amount of red tape.”
They added, “The program effectively cleans our air and provides high-paying domestic jobs that underpin employment in innovative industries. It is a true win-win-win.”
Signing the letter were American Trucking Associations, the American Association of Port Authorities, the American Lung Association, the American Highway Users Alliance, the Associated General Contractors of America and the Association of American Railroads.
EPA indicated it intends to award about $44 million in grants under the DERA National Grants Program. And in July, the agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality solicited applications for tribal projects that would achieve reductions in diesel emissions and diesel emissions exposure. The agency indicated it expects that $2 million will be awarded to eligible applicants for up to eight grants.
According to the agency, minimizing exposure to diesel exhaust from older engines is advantageous to people’s health and the environment.
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