A recent letter by a coalition of 45 diesel using and producing groups, including the American Trucking Assns., has urged the EPA to delay its final rule until certain studies are completed. According to critics, members of this group have been pressuring the members of a House-Senate conference committee behind closed doors to attach new language to the EPA appropriations bill to delay the EPA rulemaking process -- much as the rulemaking on the hours of service has been delayed through language in the transportation appropriations bill.
The new rules, proposed by EPA earlier this year, call for the sulfur content of diesel fuel to be reduced by 97% by mid-2006. The proposal also will require diesel engines to be equipped with particle traps beginning in 2007.
"Oil company ploys to create regional fuel markets hurt the consumer and put the brakes on much needed cleaner trucks nationwide," says Stephanie Williams, spokesperson for the California Trucking Assn. "If the American Petroleum Institute can create 50 different fuels for 50 different states, they will bring in even higher profits for their members."
California truckers say they are at a competitive disadvantage to truckers in other states with access to cheaper, higher-sulfur fuel and want to see the cleaner fuel required in California mandated nationwide.
Carol Browner, EPA's administrator, criticized lawmakers for secretly negotiating over the proposed rules during a speech she made before the National Press Club last week. If language delaying the rule makes it into the legislation, she will urge President Clinton to veto the bill, according to published reports. "If the Congress doesn't want the trucks cleaned up, if they don't want the sulfur out of diesel, then they should call a Congressional hearing, they should have a public debate, and they should stand up and register their vote on this crucial public health proposal."
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, criticized the Clinton Administration's "politically motivated headlong rush to issue as many regulations as it can before the end of the current administration" during a press conference Friday. Inhofe, who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety, is widely suspected to be behind the proposed amendment to the EPA bill.
"I am calling on the EPA to pull back and allow for a proper consideration of each of these rules," Inhofe said. His concerns with the proposed diesel rule included the need for a cost impact study for refiners; the possibility of distribution problems, fuel shortages and price spikes; and the need for proven technology.
Other groups supporting the EPA rule include the New Hampshire Motor Transport Assn., the Texas Motor Transportation Assn., International Truck & Engine Corp., the American Lung Assn. and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, among others.