EPA quantifies Diesel Emission Reduction Act program returns

Grants aimed at cleaning up old diesel engines have greatly improved public health by cutting harmful pollution that causes premature deaths, asthma attacks, and missed school and workdays, according to a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report.

Since its start in 2008, EPA officials contend, the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program has significantly improved air quality for communities across the country by retrofitting and replacing dated truck power. Funding from the program has helped clean up approximately 335,200 tons of nitrogen oxides and 14,700 tons of particulate matter, which are linked to a range of respiratory ailments and premature deaths. DERA has also saved 450 million gallons of fuel and prevented 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to the annual CO2 generated from 900,000-plus automobiles. EPA estimates that every dollar of clean diesel project funding generates up to $13 of public health benefits.

“EPA is making a visible difference in communities that need it most through the funding of cleaner trucks, buses and other heavy equipment,” says Acting Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe. “The report on DERA’s impact offers striking evidence that this program is succeeding in providing Americans with cleaner air where they live and work.”

Operating throughout the transportation infrastructure today, EPA points to 10.3 million older diesel engines—the nation’s “legacy fleet” or pre-2008 equipment—as needing to be replaced or repowered to reduce air pollutants. While some will be retired over time, many engines will remain in use through the next 20 years. DERA grants and rebates are gradually replacing legacy engines with cleaner models. Priority is given to fleets in regions with disproportionate amounts of diesel pollution, such as those near ports and rail yards.

This third report to Congress presents the final results from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and covers fiscal years 2009-2011. It also estimates the impacts from grants funded in fiscal years 2011-2013. Additional report highlights include:

  • Environmental benefits: 18,900 tons of hydrocarbon prevented; 4,836,100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions cut; and, 450 million gallons of fuel saved.
  • Public health benefits: Up to $12.6 billion in monetized health benefits, and up to 1,700 fewer premature deaths. Although not quantified in the report, NOx and PM reductions also prevent asthma attacks, sick days, and emergency room visits.
  • Program accomplishments: 642 grants funded; $570 million funds awarded; 73,000 vehicles or engines retrofitted or replaced; 81 percent of projects targeted to areas with air quality challenges; and, 3:1 leveraging of funds from non-federal sources.

Additional National Clean Diesel Campaign information is posted at www.epa.gov/cleandiesel.