President's budget lukewarm on truck retrofit program

| 2/8/2006

Funding for a highly anticipated program that would give truckers grants to upgrade or retrofit their trucks appears to be making progress, but supporters say the money that’s been set aside falls drastically short of what is needed.

On Monday, Feb. 6, the Bush Administration released its $2.7 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2007. Within it, $50 million was requested for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, a program that was introduced by Sens. George Voinovich, R-OH, and Tom Carper, D-DE.

The program was passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law by President Bush in August 2005. Although originally earmarked to receive $200 million, the program was delayed after it failed to receive appropriations funding for fiscal year 2006.

After funding fell through the first time around, the National Governor’s Association – along with more than 200 groups in the environmental, transportation and public health sectors – lobbied successfully to include the specific line-item funding for the project in the president’s budget.

However, supporters say, the budgeted amount of $50 million doesn’t come close to the requested $200 million.

“While $50 million is a solid start, we urge Congress to finance this important clean air program at $200 million as originally authorized,” Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a non-profit organization that promotes clean diesel technologies, said in a statement. “The president’s proposal is a solid single, but we’re calling on Congress to hit a home run for cleaner air by appropriating $200 million for clean diesel retrofit programs.”

The budget proposal will now make its way to the House and Senate, where each group will analyze the various allocations and create appropriations bills. A joint committee will vote on a final version later this year, which – if all goes as planned – will take place before fiscal year 2007 begins in October 2006.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer