Operators of trucks, buses, trains, ships and other heavy diesel equipment in California--and certainly the ports of Long Beach and L.A.-- will have to start phasing in exhaust filters in January and, in many cases, replace the vehicles by the end of the decade.
The changes are part of a comprehensive air quality plan for California slated for EPA approval. The agency said California has to reduce the tiny particles thrown off by fumes from burning diesel. The particles penetrate deep into the lungs and aggravate a host of respiratory ailments, hastening death for some people, said EPA spokeswoman Niloufar Glosson.
According to an EPA release, about 9,200 people die in the state each year from breathing in the particles thrown off by diesel, and the new plan could prevent 3,500 deaths.
Starting January 1, 2012, the California Air Resources Board will require trucks, farm equipment, buses and other diesel machinery to have exhaust filters that capture pollutants before they are emitted into the air--that or replace the vehicle entirely with a new one equipped with the filters.
Starting January 1, 2015, the regulation would require accelerated replacements of both lighter and heavier vehicles that do not have filters installed, according to EPA literature.
Mary Fricke, a spokeswoman for the California Air Quality Resources Board, said the deadlines for retrofitting were different depending on the type of equipment and the age of the engine.
She also said some vehicles were exempt, like fire engines.
Also, Fricke said, the state is offering a number of vouchers, grants and loans to help operators make the necessary changes to their fleets. Check the board's web site for more details on those programs.
According to the EPA, installing a filter on a a diesel bus cost about $5,000 in 2003.
Under the plan, nearly all old diesel vehicles would need to be upgraded to have exhaust emissions meeting 2010-model-year engine emissions levels by 2023.
The California Air Resources Board will also be dealing with manufacturers from Mack to Caterpillar to make sure the equipment they ship to California meets the new emissions standards before any operators purchase the vehicles, said Sam Atwood at the Air Quality Management District.
Long Beach Transit buses are already following the proposed plan. Marcelle Epley, the Chief Administrative Officer and Senior VP of Long Beach Transit said, "we're already in compliance with the mandate. We run hybrid electric gasoline buses. We also use particulate traps and we already have over 60 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) coaches to replace older diesel buses."
By comparison, Laura Scheper of the Orange County Transportation Authority said the OCTA's fleet isn't subject to the plan. Most of the Orange County bus fleet runs on compressed natural gas, a cleaner alternative to diesel or gasoline.