Public fleets in Southern California may have to stop buying diesel-powered vehicles if proposed smog-control rules are approved.

The governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the smog control agency for all or portions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, Friday will consider rules that would require public fleets to switch to clean-burning gasoline or alternative fuels. The proposal would affect a total of 5,000 trash trucks, 4,000 buses and 60,000 passenger cars.
There are actually three rules under debate:
* Rule 1191, effective July 2001, would require cities and other public agencies that own and operate more than 15 light- or medium-duty vehicles to buy only those that meet California's low emissions vehicle standard or cleaner. After several years the rule would require ultra-low-emissions vehicles.
* Rule 1192 would require public transit fleet operators with 100 or more vehicles to buy only alternative-fuel hevy-duty vehicles when replacing or adding buses to their fleets. This would go into effect immediately upon adoption of the rule, while transit operators with 15 to 100 vehicles would have until July 1, 2001.
* Rule 1193, effective July 1, 2001, would require public and private waste haulers with fleets of 15 or more vehicles to buy alternative-fuel heavy-duty vehicles. For the first year, dual-fuel vehicles would be accepted.
There are no provisions in the proposals for buying diesel vehicles, a fact that has some industry groups and fleet operators upset. They believe including cleaner-burning diesel vehicles in the rules would clean the air faster than relying on natural gas and other technologies that are more expensive than diesel.
"The basic question of why can’t we meet your standards with our fuel is one that begs for an answer," says Scott Macdonald, communications director for the South Coast Clean Air Partnership. The new organization wants to add diesel vehicles that use low-sulfur fuel and particulate traps to the alternative-fuels list. The 14-member group includes public transit agencies, school districts, business gruops and petroleum interests.
Gail Ruderman Feuer, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Associated Press that diesel buses with low-sulfur fuel and particulate traps reduce some emissions, but not as much as natural gas buses do, and do nothing to reduce toxic air contaminants.
Feuer added she’s hopeful that the district, home to the nation’s worst air, will stick to its plan.