Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of Thomas R. Carper
Hearing: Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing entitled, "Federal Efforts to Protect Public Health by Reducing Diesel Emissions."
Thursday, May 12, 2011

My colleagues and I were sent to Washington to govern and to find common-sense solutions to the challenges facing our nation. I don't believe Americans are especially interested in Democratic ideas or Republican ideas. They want us to come up with ideas that will work and we can all agree on to make our country even better.

Cleaning up dirty diesel emissions provides us an opportunity to work across the aisle, something we do too rarely these days. Our nation relies heavily on diesel power to transport commuters, harvest our crops, and build our infrastructure.

The good thing about diesel engines is that they last a long time, and the bad thing about diesel engines is that they last a long time. Clean diesel engines made today are reaching near zero emissions, but that does nothing for the millions of engines already in use and will be in use for the next 20 years

Despite new engine standards, the EPA estimates there are 11 million diesel engines in America lacking the latest pollution control technology. These older diesel engines emit black carbon and toxic particles, which we will hear today, cause significant harm to the environment and to our health. Retrofitting or replacing older diesel engines with American made technology can dramatically reduce diesel emissions.

Unfortunately, there are few direct economic incentives for vehicle and equipment owners to retrofit or replace their old engines. Programs like the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) help provide the right incentives to clean up our existing diesel fleet.

An idea that came from my friend Sen. Voinovich, DERA is one of the most cost-effective clean air federal programs, averaging more than $13 in health and economic benefits for every $1 in funding. Through voluntary grants and loans, DERA has reduced deadly emissions, saved lives and employed thousands of workers who manufacture, sell or repair diesel vehicles and their components in each state. It is a true win-win-win.

Last Congress, we reauthorized the DERA program through 2016 and made some changes to try to improve DERA's effectiveness. Unfortunately, the President's budget for fiscal year 2012 zeroed out DERA funding.

Although I appreciate dedication to reducing the federal deficit, cutting such a successful program doesn't make sense. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure this program continues to be funded.

Although a great success, DERA has not been able to greatly reduce emissions from our nation's construction equipment. The bulldozers, diggers, and backhoes that build our nation's infrastructure produce 25 percent of America's mobile diesel emissions.

At risk are children who live near construction sites, commuters stuck in traffic, and workers who operate construction machinery. In fact, heavy equipment operators who are exposed to diesel exhaust are 47 percent more likely to die from a heart attack.

To better address this problem, today I am introducing the Clean Construction Act of 2011. This common-sense approach is simple: in areas of poor air quality, federal transportation projects should reduce, not increase, deadly diesel emissions.

The Clean Construction Act accomplishes this goal by requiring that one percent of the cost of a transportation project in a particulate matter nonattainment area is used to upgrade dirty diesel equipment. The bill applies solely to particulate matter nonattainment areas, where significant air quality problems already exist.

Some will criticize this bill as a diversion of transportation dollars. However, I ask my colleagues to recognize that one percent of the cost of a small set of projects is a reasonable price to ensure fewer Americans die from diesel soot.

In closing, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about the health impacts of diesel emissions and ways to get greater diesel emission reductions. I also look forward to working with my colleagues to reduce toxic diesel emissions that threaten our communities and our children.

###

Majority Office
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-8832
Minority Office
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-6176