Diesel retrofit program receives lukewarm reception in Senate committee

| 7/7/2006

The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee approved a bittersweet $20 million in funding for a nationwide diesel retrofit program last week – an amount that falls drastically short of its original earmark.

On Friday, June 30, the Senate completed the mark-up of the 2007 Interior Appropriations Bill, including $20.127 million in funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Program, which was introduced last year by Sens. George Voinovich, R-OH, and Thomas Carper, D-DE, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The Energy Bill’s language originally authorized the program to receive approximately $200 million in funding, and to begin in fiscal year 2006. However, delays in Congress kept the program’s funding from being approved by its intended start date.

The program was kept afloat by Voinovich, along with about 200 groups in the transportation, environmental and public health sectors, who got it introduced as a line item in President Bush’s fiscal year 2007 budget.

The president’s budget requested $49.5 million for the program – about a fourth of its original allocation. However, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the program for $28 million in their version of the Interior Appropriations bill – which is still $8 million more than the Senate’s earmark.

“I am terribly disappointed in the committee’s decision to allot only $20 million for diesel emissions reduction,” Voinovich said in a press release. “If we want to clean up our air to improve the environment and protect public health, diesel retrofits are one of the best uses of taxpayers’ money.”

The Interior Appropriations bill will next be debated before the full Senate, and must pass a joint committee and be signed by the President before it can take effect.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer