Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

State’s diesel emission rule losing steam (UPDATE)

By: Joe Lanane//January 3, 2011//

State’s diesel emission rule losing steam (UPDATE)

By: Joe Lanane//January 3, 2011//

Listen to this article
A Case IH Magnum tractor is shown on the assembly line at the CNH Tractor Plant in Mount Pleasant. The tractor contains a diesel engine that is already compliant with federal Tier 4A emission standards. (AP Photos/Journal Times, Scott Anderson)

By Joe Lanane

A shared skepticism between industry representatives and the state Department of Natural Resources’ new secretary might kill the agency’s proposed diesel emission rule.

“We want to be careful to make sure Wisconsin is not all of a sudden a regulatory island,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said. “If things are going smoothly, it doesn’t make sense to meddle with something that’s already doing just fine.”

The DNR’s proposed rule would exceed even the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest emission update, which went into effect Saturday.

The federal rule sets emission standards only for diesel engine manufacturers, while the DNR proposal would force those who own off-road equipment to upgrade and retrofit their engines, said Jessica Lawent, DNR air management specialist.

Off-road equipment includes bulldozers, scrapers and backhoes.

The EPA, since an off-road vehicle provision was added to the Clean Air Act in 1996, has required off-road equipment produce a gradually decreasing amount of diesel emissions, Lawent said. The EPA code targets manufacturers by requiring that only off-road vehicles that meet federal standards are available for purchase.

The federal regulation change Saturday further limited diesel emissions. Manufacturers must now produce diesel engines that emit 90 percent fewer pollutants than engines created before 1996.

But that same federal act prevents states from adopting off-road vehicle standards, said John Mielke, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, which officially opposed the proposed rule. That raises the question of whether the state can force contractors to retrofit their equipment.

“I don’t think DNR did its due diligence on the rule,” Mielke said. “They are really stretching their authority as a department.”

The DNR will take all public input into account in March when considering adopting the rule. If it is approved, it will go into effect in August.

Even if the DNR approves the rule, Wisconsin still needs a nod from the EPA, said Joseph Kubsh, executive director of the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association.

“They may need a waiver from the federal government before they can enforce the requirement,” he said.

Such waivers are made only if the EPA determines “compelling or extraordinary conditions” exist, according to the Clean Air Act. California applied for exemption status, Kubsh said, and he anticipates that waiver will be granted.

Wisconsin did not originally intend to draft a state-specific rule, but an October 2009 EPA report found Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties did not meet air quality standards, said Joseph Hoke, DNR regional pollutant and mobile source section chief.

That sparked the proposed rule.

But air quality throughout the state has improved, disqualifying Wisconsin from claiming extraordinary conditions for a federal waiver, said Scott Manley, director of environmental policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. He said the state should instead lean on the federal law and spare Wisconsin contractors from the cost of upgrades.

“As some of this equipment is retired and replaced by those with new standards,” Manley said, “we’re going to see a significant drop in air emissions.”

Even if Wisconsin qualifies for an exemption, Stepp said, she would not seek a federal waiver unless the environmental benefits outweigh the cost of equipment upgrades.

“It would have to be significant,” she said, “and I’m skeptical that’s what the results would be.”


Is the labor shortage getting:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Today’s News

See All Today's News

Project Profiles

See All Project Profiles