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DEP Urges House Committee to Amend, Strengthen Diesel Idling Legislation

Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120




Tom Rathbun

(717) 787-1323


Stronger Enforcement Provisions Will Ensure Statewide Compliance, Cleaner Air
HARRISBURG – In order to better protect the public health and ensure cleaner air, a Department of Environmental Protection official today urged the General Assembly to make substantive amendments to a bill that would limit the amount of time diesel-powered commercial vehicles could idle their engines.

Testifying before the House Transportation Committee, Deputy Secretary for Waste, Air and Radiation Management Thomas Fidler proposed a series of amendments to Senate Bill 295 that would strengthen enforcement options; give the owners of warehouses, truck stops and commercial lots a greater role in ensuring the law would be followed; and increase the penalties that could be levied against violators.

“The Department of Environmental Protection fully supports the concept of statewide idling restrictions to limit emissions from diesel-powered commercial vehicles,” said Fidler. “However, the department cannot support SB 295 in its current form and recommends substantive amendments to bring this legislation in line with neighboring states and better protect the public’s health.” Fidler recommended three amendments:

• Because the owners and operators of locations where diesel-powered vehicles load, unload and park often share responsibility with vehicle operators for excessive idling, they should also be accountable for causing delays.

• DEP should be given the flexibility to assess civil penalties or fines for idling restrictions under the existing framework of the Air Pollution Control Act.

• The summary offense fines for violation of SB 295 should be increased significantly to coincide with the penalties already in place in certain parts of Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

The Environmental Quality Board is currently promulgating regulations to restrict idling under the authority of the Air Pollution Control Act. This proposed rulemaking, like SB 295, would prohibit the unnecessary idling of diesel-powered commercial vehicles—with certain exceptions—and imposes fines and penalties for violations of idling restrictions. The department’s proposed regulation includes stronger enforcement provisions and will proportion anti-idling responsibilities more equitably among all parties.

“Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture of hazardous particles and vapors, some of which are known, and probable, carcinogens,” said Fidler. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, diesel exhaust contains significant levels of small particles, known as fine particulate matter. The fine particles pose a significant health risk because they can pass through the nose and throat and lodge in the lungs, causing lung damage and premature death. The particles can also aggravate conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Nationwide, particulate matter, especially fine particles, is responsible for thousands of premature deaths every year. EPA has also determined that diesel exhaust is a likely human carcinogen. The exhaust can also contribute to other acute and chronic health effects.

Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles also contribute to ground-level ozone, or smog. EPA has recently made the ozone and the fine particulate standards more protective. As a result, many counties in the commonwealth will be designated as nonattainment areas later this year and in 2009. “Achieving the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and fine particulates remains a significant challenge for the commonwealth, especially in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh-Beaver Valley areas,” said Fidler. “Reducing diesel emissions from vehicle idling is an important component of our plans to achieve and maintain the ozone and fine particulate health-based national ambient air quality standards.”

Fidler added that ensuring fewer commercial vehicles idle their engines extensively also saves fuel, which is important to many truck operators today as diesel prices climb.

“Idling diesel-powered vehicles can consume as much as a gallon of fuel per hour,” said Fidler. “With the price of diesel fuel at more than $4 per gallon, every night a long-haul truck spends idling in Pennsylvania costs that operator as much as $40. If that truck idles every night, that is more than $14,000 a year in fuel expenses.”

As many as 44 states and local jurisdictions, including the City of Philadelphia and Allegheny County, have enacted ordinances or adopted regulations that impose idling restrictions. For more information on the Environmental Quality Board’s proposed idling restrictions, visit http://www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Diesel idling.


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