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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Transport Companies to Scott Pruitt: Hands Off Clean Diesel


A group of transportation and emissions-control companies and trade associations want to give Scott Pruitt a piece of their mind. This week they sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator voicing their support the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA). The group is requesting that the clean air program be included in the Donald Trump administration’s budget outline that will be released this month.

DERA provides funding to encourage technoloies that reduce emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment by up to 90 percent.

It is a program with strong bipartisan support. Authored by a Republican, it passed in 2005 with a 92-to-1 vote in the Senate.

The legislation had “the strong support of the Bush Administration,” the companies and trade associations wrote in their letter to Pruitt. The George W. Bush administration requested funding for the program in every year’s budget after it was first authorized. And it is the “only EPA program for which all regions sought additional funding,” the group said. 

DERA is a voluntary and cost-effective program. Non-federal matching funds kick in $3 for every $1 in federal assistance, according to the EPA’s own estimates. And that $4 in public and private funding generates $7 to $18 in health and economic benefits. And states received 30 percent of the funding for DERA support programs.

“Since implementation, DERA has become one of the most cost-effective federal clean air programs,” the group claimed in its letter.

And they got specific, claiming:

  • DERA has upgraded almost 73,000 vehicles or pieces of equipment and saved over 450 million gallons of fuel.

  • The total lifetime emission reductions achieved through DERA funding total 14,700 tons of particulate matter (PM) and 335,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), which equates to about $12.6 billion in health benefits.

Despite this success, the companies say DERA is still needed because diesel engines stick around for so long. Nearly 3 out of 5 diesel trucks and buses on the road today are over 10 years old, and they release more emissions than vehicles using current technology. Without DERA, older vehicles will remain on the road until they conk out, and that will further increase emissions.

Pruitt has requested a 25 percent funding cut for the EPA, which means the agency must identify or even eliminate programs to meet that goal. The Office of Management and Budget, under the helm of a former Tea Party House member, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, identified DERA as one of the programs that could be cut.

However, there may be reason to hope that DERA will survive. Last week, Pruitt said he is “concerned” about some of the “grants that have been targeted.”

That might be a slim hope considering Pruitt's history: As the state attorney general of Oklahoma, he filed numerous lawsuits against the EPA. Advocates say he is clearly a man picked by the Trump administration to gut the very agency he is supposed to lead.

And on Thursday, Pruitt wiped away the optimism many held after last week's regulation comments: In a line that smacked of satire straight out of the Onion, Pruitt said he does not agree that carbon dioxide is a "primary contributor" to climate change. Yikes. 

Even if DERA remains intact, many other programs will undoubtedly be cut and the federal agency’s ability to fight pollution could slip, along with its ability to reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. (You know, according to scientists, not politicians.)

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is not happy with the proposed budget cuts. She told the press she is concerned that the federal agency could lose 42 percent of its scientists. “I mean, this is not just disagreeing with the science and wanting to deny it,” she told MSNBC. “This is telling half of the scientists that they are no longer welcome in the premier science agency in the world, the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Image credit: Flickr/Emma Smith

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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