Lung Association Welcomes Approval of Regulations to Clean Up Diesel Pollution

Long Overdue Regulations Will Reduce Harmful Effects of Diesel Pollution

ALBANY, NY (06/17/2009)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association in New York today welcomed the approval of enacting regulations which implement the New York State Diesel Emission Reduction Act of 2006 (DERA). Approved today by the New York State Environmental Board, the regulations specify what engines are covered under the law and what technologies will be acceptable for use in retrofitting old, dirty diesel engines.

"New York continues to lead the nation in the number of deaths and disease caused by diesel exhaust, and today's regulations help address a major source of diesel pollution," said Michael Seilback, Vice President, Public Policy & Communications. "However, for the millions of New Yorkers who struggle to breathe every day, implementation of this law cannot come soon enough and DEC must act quickly to ensure dirty diesel engines are being retrofit."

Under the rules enacted today, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provides for what technologies constitute Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART). Additionally, DEC is mandated to submit a report to the Legislature on or before January 1, 2010, and every year thereafter on the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) and the use of retrofit technologies. The law also established the following schedule for installing the retrofit technologies: not less than 66 percent of all vehicles by December 31, 2009; and, not less than 100 percent of all vehicles by December 31, 2010.

Already implemented provisions of DERA include requiring all state owned heavy duty vehicles (used in on-road and off-road applications) and those under contract with the state to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) beginning in February 2007.

Air pollution problems and their attendant health threats have become serious statewide issues. Millions of New Yorkers are at risk. In fact, according to the EPA, 89 percent of the state's population lives in a county where air quality does not attain federal health standards. In addition, the EPA has declared the counties of Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Kings, Richmond, New York, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland and Orange in "non-attainment" for fine particles.

"The New York State Legislature has a golden opportunity to build on DERA by creating a dedicated fund to help finance the purchase of retrofit technology by municipalities and other entities not covered by the current law," added Seilback. "Every dollar spent on cleaning our air has a positive impact on lung health and helps lower health care costs."

According to the New York State Department of Health, the typical hospital bill for a person on Medicaid who is hospitalized for an asthma attack is $9,500, which is more than a diesel particulate filter (DPF) would cost. Thus, if each DPF installed provides enough clean air to avoid just one asthma-related hospital admission, then the legislation pays for itself. Furthermore, this law increases economic opportunities for companies in New York who currently make diesel emission reduction technologies.

The high air pollution levels in New York cause people to become sick and even cuts lives short. Diesel pollution has been shown by a wealth of science to trigger asthma attacks; is linked to heart attacks, cancer and even premature deaths in seniors; and is associated with ambient levels of both ozone and fine particles.

According to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2009 report, more than 12.5 million New Yorkers - a stunning 65 percent of the state's residents - live in counties where air pollution levels endanger lives. For most of the state, there truly is no escape for New Yorkers whose health is impacted by air pollution.

Diesel emissions remain a particularly troublesome health threat. They are a contributing factor to the ozone problems facing so many New York communities and are a big reason why the New York City metro area has such a problem with fine particles. In fact, New York state has the highest number of deaths and the greatest rate of disease associated with diesel exhaust particles. The New York City metropolitan area leads the nation in total deaths, cancer deaths, and heart attacks associated with diesel emissions. Unlike many areas of the country, the health effects associated with diesel pollution in New York are even greater than those associated with power plant fine particle pollution.

An interactive map showing air quality findings in New York, by county, is available on the American Lung Association in New York's website.