Tuesday, August 19, 2008

EPA prepares to roll out lawnmower, small engine pollution standards; NYC diesel lawsuit raises eyebrows

While we are waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop on vice presidential picks (and, yes, we are interested in their environmental records), we do have some news to report: at very long last, the US EPA is about to unveil its long-awaited air pollution standards for new lawn mowers and other small gasoline engines.

Some of you will recall that we have tracked this issue for a number of years – ever since Senator Kit Bond of Missouri convinced his colleagues to make the terrible decision to take away the rights of states to adopt California standards for these engines.

After months of scrutiny, the White House Office of Management and Budget completed its review of these EPA final rules yesterday. That means the EPA should be officially announcing them within a matter of days http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eoDetails?rrid=115891

And this really is a stop-the-presses event: the Bush administration actually does something positive to fight air pollution. (The EPA summarized the rule here: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?ruleID=287159 ) Note EPA reports that:

We estimate that by 2030, the rule's emission reductions would annually prevent 450 PM-related premature deaths, approximately 500 hospitalizations, and 52,000 work days lost. The total estimated annual benefits of the rule in 2030 would be $3.4 billion. Estimated costs in 2030 would be many times less at $240 million.

These standards are way past overdue. The rule became something of an orphan at the agency, as it chased its tail on the greenhouse gas issue before the White House put down its heavy foot on that topic. We are not sure of all the reasons for the most recent delays, though the EPA docket does include an interesting e-mail exchange which suggests the boat-building lobby went crying to the Coast Guard about this. (It also would affect gasoline boat engines.)

Interestingly, the small-engine makers put out a press release on this issue a week ago – when OMB was still conducting its review. http://www.opei.org/newsroom/story_display.php?id=216

I am not sure how they became privy to some of the details, which certainly weren’t shared with us! So typical of this administration to work out the details with industry.

At any rate, keep your eye on this one.

Another very interesting development out of New York, where some retired transit workers have filed suit against makers of diesel engines and buses, claiming the diesel fumes led to cancer and other medical problems. http://www.sunherald.com/451/story/755294.html

It is the first such suit in the US to my recollection, so it could become extremely significant.

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