Construction industry, regulators reach off-road diesel emissions agreement in CA

The Associated General Contractors of America announced today that it had reached an agreement with the staff of the California Air Resources Board on proposed changes to the state’s off-road diesel rule designed to give the local construction industry time to recover from the recession while protecting air quality. The proposed changes, which will need approval from the board in December, provides needed relief for an industry that has lost 4 out of every 10 jobs since the start of the downturn, and still lowers emissions below the levels that the Board originally sought to achieve.

“The proposed changes promise relief for struggling construction workers and improvements for the state’s air quality,” said Mike Kennedy, the association’s general counsel, noting that the association will continue to work with Board staff on some of the details of the complex proposal.

Kennedy explained that the proposed changes are based on new and far lower estimates of the emissions from the off-road diesel equipment in the construction industry. The association developed the new estimates earlier this year, and over the summer the Board staff largely confirmed them. “The new estimates provided a common starting point for changes that everyone agreed the data should drive,” Kennedy said.

The proposed changes call for the Board to delay its emissions standards for off-road diesel equipment until 2014, to ease the annual burden employers have to bear, and to give contractors greater flexibility in determining how to comply. The proposed changes also call for the Board to give contractors credit for the efforts they have already made to reduce emissions and to reward contractors for voluntarily reducing emissions before 2014. However, the proposed changes would also extend the rule further into the future.

Kennedy said it was encouraging that state regulators took the time to study and confirm the industry’s estimates, and allowed the information to shape their recommendations. “As the estimates evolved, the Board staff demonstrated the courage and wisdom to propose significant changes to the rule,” Kennedy noted. “It was not easy, but we found a way to protect workers and air quality at the same time.”

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