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CARB Abandons Original Estimates of Off-Road Diesel Emissions

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At a workshop in El Monte last week, the California Air Resources Board says it will abandon its original estimates of off-road diesel emissions, conceding that its off-road rule is not needed to meet ambitious goals for the off-road equipment in the construction and certain other industries.

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According to new estimates that the agency staff developed over the summer, the CARB says off-road fleets of diesel equipment will exceed the state’s emission goals for many years to come, based on the current and near future state of the construction economy.

Mike Kennedy, general counsel for the Associated General Contractors of America, says the state’s new forecasts are for emissions of nitrogen oxide from the regulated fleets to fall well below the levels that the state has targeted in each and every year through 2025. The state now predicts that emissions of particulate matter will fall below the targeted levels through 2015 and will remain close to those targets through 2025.

During the earlier rulemaking process, the AGC says the board staff used the now abandoned estimates to justify an off-road rule that would needlessly force contractors across the state to retire, retrofit, repower or replace billions of dollars worth of construction equipment, and all at a time when California’s construction industry is still losing jobs. When informed of the state’s new forecasts, AGC and other industry officials called on the board’s members to repeal the rule “quickly and completely.” Though the CARB is backing off some emissions requirement timetables, the industry is still not completely out of the woods, says William Davis, executive vice president of the Southern California Contractors Association.

“The CARB intends to make additional amendments to the existing rule that will, in all likelihood, give construction equipment fleet owners greater latitude and more time in their compliance strategies, but they fully intend to keep a rule in place,” says Davis.

“The fact that this agency has been willing to find and fix the significant flaws in its original estimates is a victory for sound science over rash regulation,” says Kennedy. “As the agency’s own data now makes clear, it is time for the board to repeal its costly and unneeded rule.”

The state agency revised its diesel emissions estimates after an analysis of the state’s original “emissions inventory” found significant flaws in the state’s data. That analysis, conducted by Sierra Research on behalf of the AGC, found that the state has systematically over-estimated diesel emissions from off-road equipment by a factor of 3.5. The new data that the state released essentially confirms that finding, association officials note.

“The good news is that thousands of construction workers won’t have to lose their jobs on account of bad science and erroneous estimates,” says Kennedy. “The construction industry is now eager to work with the board to find ways to meet ambitious environmental goals and still protect the state’s remaining construction jobs.”

“Most construction companies have invested millions of dollars in their construction equipment, each with an estimated 30-year life span,” says Tom Holsman, CEO of Associated General Contractors of California. “When a company is spending multi-millions a year to meet the new standards by either replacing or retrofitting existing equipment, it’s going to be difficult to create new jobs. We have long believed that CARB’s analysis for equipment replacement/retrofitting was severally underestimated.”

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