Fearing a diesel emissions crackdown that could cripple construction company budgets, industry groups want new rules approved before the state has a chance to study the issue.
The Wisconsin Clean Diesel Coalition — with the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin, the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin Inc., the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and 14 other members — has drafted new diesel idling rules for inclusion in an omnibus clean energy bill working its way through the Legislature.
The draft of the clean energy bill sets diesel rules for trucks and tractors and directs the state Department of Natural Resources to study ways to reduce emissions in other engines. It’s the uncertainty over where the study might lead — and concern that the study’s recommendations might be severe — that prompted the coalition to act.
“If the state goes to a study, who knows what direction this is going to go,” said Jim Boullion, government affairs director for AGC of Wisconsin.
One fear is the study could set Wisconsin on the same path as California, which last year enacted emission rules stricter than those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. California’s rules, which are temporarily suspended during a legal battle, force contractors to sell their old equipment outside of California and buy new or retrofit to existing standards.
Boullion said the costs associated with buying or retrofitting entire fleets of construction equipment would be too much for Wisconsin contractors to handle.
Still, the proposed rules by the 17 coalition members would strengthen the clean energy bill by including gasoline and diesel engines for on- and off-road vehicles.
In general, the rules would prevent engine idling for more than five minutes in a 60-minute period and set a $150 penalty for any owner or operator violation.
Exemptions include instances when a vehicle is stuck in traffic or when construction equipment is being used for work processes such as holding a beam or operating a hoist.
“It’s basically just if a crane operator goes down for lunch for an hour,” Boullion said. “Turn the engine off.”
The coalition sent its recommendations to state Sens. Mark Miller, D-Monona, and Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, sponsors of the clean energy bill, which is based on recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming.
Miller’s spokesman, John Anderson, said Friday that Miller had not yet received the coalition’s letter, and he did not know if the diesel rules will make it into the bill.
But at least one member of the task force’s transportation work group offered a mixed reaction to the proposed rules. Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and co-chairman of the transportation work group, blasted the Wisconsin Clean Diesel Coalition members for suggesting in their letter to Miller and Plale that the bill’s current recommendations are not strong enough.
“We didn’t know enough at the time to put these kinds of recommendations in,” he said, “and they had every opportunity then to give us their input.”
Yet, at the same time, Hiniker said, he will recommend Miller and Plale put proposed rules into the bill.
The timing of the proposed rules and the suggestion the bill is weak were meant to help the bill rather than offending the transportation work group, said Tom Walker, WTBA’s director of government affairs.
“I think we should get credit, frankly, for putting stronger rules forward,” he said.