Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on this legislation to reduce diesel emissions. I am encouraged that this bipartisan legislation will have a considerable and cost-effective impact on our efforts to further the already significant progress we have made in improving air quality over the last few decades.
Just 30 years ago, air pollution was more than double what it is today. But we can no longer rely on the command-and-control approach associated with much of the Clean Air Act. Instead, we must look to solutions that get the biggest emissions reduction possible for every dollar spent. This legislation does just that.
Diesel engines are at the core of our nation’s infrastructure. These engines power freight trucks, buses, tractors, and a wide variety of other farm, construction, and specialty equipment. But as would be expected from such widespread use, these engines are responsible for a significant percentage of the mobile source nitrogen oxides.
On-road and off-road diesel engine rules were finalized in 2001 and 2004 that will cut emissions by diesel engines dramatically – by more than 80 percent – but these rules will not affect the millions of diesel engines already on the road. Many trucks are driven more than a million miles before they are retired.
Nearly 500 counties are in non-attainment with the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. Yet existing diesel engines will continue to contribute to the problem despite the progress that has been made in developing new state-of-the-art clean diesel engines.
What is needed is a cost-effective, voluntary program that builds on the successful state programs already underway to reduce pollution from these sources. Such legislation would help localities meet their clean air requirements and yield enormous health benefits at a fraction of the cost of what would be needed to obtain the same benefits through command-and-control regulations.
The approach taken in this legislation is similar to that taken in an amendment to the highway bill that I sponsored to promote clean school buses. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act builds on existing state and local programs to retrofit and replace older engines so that localities have flexibility in coming into attainment. With the submission of State Implementation Plans fast approaching, enacting the legislation soon is crucial.
By creating grant and loan funding to reduce diesel emissions, this legislation does not suffer from many of the shortcomings of the existing Clean Air Act. Whereas command-and-control mandates often are unnecessarily costly and ineffective at reducing emissions, this type of program directly targets cost-effective sources for cutting emissions.
At a cost-benefit ratio of 13 to 1, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act simply makes sense. It authorizes $1 billion over five years, leverages an additional $500 million from matching state funds and will, in addition to reducing nitrogen oxides, cut particulate matter by an estimated 70,000 tons. If we are to impose strict air quality requirements upon our localities, then we must acknowledge that these requirements will impose significant burdens on them. This legislation implicitly acknowledges this fact and assists these areas in meeting those obligations.
I am glad to be a co-sponsor of this legislation and look forward to hearing testimony today.