DIESEL-POWERED EARTH MOVERS, harvest combines and airport baggage trucks emit massive amounts of microscopic particles that lodge in people's lungs. It's estimated these emissions contribute to 8,500 deaths a year.
Apparently that's a pollution statistic even the Bush administration can't ignore. The Environmental Protection Agency is drafting promising new rules for cutting emissions from heavy construction, industrial and farm vehicles beginning in 2008.
President Bush just might get this one right.
The new rule would bring off-road diesel vehicles and the fuel they use under the same smart requirements for on-road tractor-trailer trucks and buses approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001.
The truck/bus rule is one of the few needed environmental regulations that survived from late in the Clinton era. It's also one of few examples of aggressive enforcement by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
The rule requires refineries to reduce dramatically by 2006 the amount of sulfur in the diesel fuel used by trucks and buses. Then manufacturers will add pollution-control equipment to new engines.
The change is akin to removing lead from gasoline and installing catalytic converters in cars. It will save as much pollution as would taking 13 million of the nation's 14 million trucks off the road.
Ms. Whitman should stand up just as strongly for extending the rule to off-road diesels such as bulldozers, tractors, portable generators, forklifts and airport equipment. She should beat back an emissions-trading scheme proposed by industry that would impede the intended progress toward cleaner air, especially in urban areas like ours.
This administration too frequently has bent to the will of industry on environmental regulation, risking the health of millions of Americans.
For example, nine Northeastern states sued the administration over rules announced in November that make it easier for industrial plants and refineries to modernize without updating pollution controls. The relaxed rules threaten to increase acid rain, smog, asthma and respiratory disease, especially in the states downwind of old Midwest factories.
Attesting to how industry-friendly these smokestack rules are, the National Association of Manufacturers is passing the hat to raise money to help the EPA defend them in court.
Despite the remarkable improvement in air quality since the Clean Air Act passed in 1970, air pollution remains a serious health threat to many Americans. Much of the danger spews from the tailpipes of diesel vehicles.
The Bush administration should break from its usual routine, and stand firm on the diesel rules