Pols press to delay engine emission regs: EPA says 'no soap'

| 7/25/2002

Despite pressure from House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) to postpone the Oct. 1, 2002, heavy-duty truck engine emission deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will not delay the rule.

EPA told Land Line Magazine the Oct. 1 deadline will not be changed. An agency spokeswoman said, however, the schedule and amount of penalties Caterpillar Inc. must pay has not been determined.

Caterpillar is facing stiff penalties because it decided not to meet the deadline for compliance in favor of taking more time to pursue its own approach to making cleaner diesel engines. But the company said EPA has proposed a sliding-scale penalty system of fines of $4,680 to $15,000 per truck that are three times as great as originally discussed.

Hastert was drawn into the dispute by Caterpillar of Peoria, IL, a leading manufacturer of diesel engines and also a campaign contributor, largely to Republicans, The Washington Post reports. Caterpillar's headquarters and main engine plant are located in LaHood's district.

In October 1998, the EPA and Justice Department announced a settlement in which the enginemakers agreed to pay a combined $83.4 million in fines and to move up a deadline for producing cleaner-burning engines from January 2004 to October 2002.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel Corp. have petitioned a federal court in Washington, DC, for a one-year delay in the new rule. And Rep. Mac Collins (R-GA), a former trucking company owner, and others said they'll find a way to sidetrack the regulation or soften the penalties unless the administration relents.

Under EPA's new rule, nitrogen oxide emissions, which are said to cause acid rain and upper respiratory diseases, would be reduced by 1.2 million tons within the program's first year.
-- Dick Larsen, senior editor