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EPA and State Officials Praise RIPTA's Leadership in Curbing Diesel Pollution

Release Date: 06/22/04
Contact Information: Contact: Dave Deegan, EPA Press Office (617-918-1017)

For Immediate Release: June 22, 2004 Release # 04-06-24

PROVIDENCE - With summer heat and elevated 'smog' levels a daily possibility in Rhode Island, state and federal environmental officials gathered today in Providence to celebrate the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority's (RIPTA) recent progress in curbing smog-forming pollution by upgrading dozens of its diesel buses with pollution control equipment.

"RIPTA is making a difference in improving air quality and it's especially welcome on hot summer days when air quality is not as good as it should be," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "We commend RIPTA as one of the top performing transit agencies in New England when it comes to cleaning up diesel emissions."

RIPTA is one of just three transit agencies in New England working to reduce diesel bus emissions by installing diesel particulate matter filters and using cleaner diesel fuel. By taking these two actions, soot emissions from buses are cut by more than 90 percent. RIPTA has already equipped 22 of its diesel buses with the filters and 24 new buses already fitted with the filters will be added to the fleet later this year.

"RIPTA has taken an aggressive, pro-active approach to provide the cleanest bus service possible for the people of Rhode Island," said Alfred J. Moscola, RIPTA's general manager. "For us, it's a quality of life issue and RIPTA is committed to doing its share to improve air quality for our state's residents."

"Reducing the air pollution from diesel-powered vehicles and other sources will help to prevent asthma and other respiratory illnesses in Rhode Island," said Patricia A. Nolan, MD, MPH, Director of the RI Department of Health. "We will all breathe a little easier, knowing that RIPTA has taken a leadership role in improving air quality for our state."

Diesel engines are significant contributors to air pollution, especially in urban areas. Last summer, a relatively cool one, Rhode Islanders experienced 10 days with unhealthy smog levels. Four smog exceedance days have been recorded so far this year.

The small particles in diesel exhaust can also cause lung damage and aggravate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. In Rhode Island, one of every five families with children has a child with asthma. The state's childhood asthma rate is 10.7 percent.

"Air quality monitoring has shown that the fine particles that come from diesel-powered engines in buses and trucks continue to pose threat to air quality in our state," said Frederick Vincent, Acting Director of the Department of Environmental Management.

"The important steps that RIPTA is taking to install particulate filters on its transit buses and use cleaner fuels will go a long way toward reducing harmful diesel emissions into our environment. Further, EPA's long-standing commitment to make diesel engines and fuels cleaner will help bring public health and air quality benefits to Rhode Island and New England alike."

Today's visit comes on the heels of EPA announcing a new Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule that will cut emission levels from new construction and other industrial diesel-powered equipment by more than 90 percent. The rule, announced last month, will also remove 99 percent of the sulfur in diesel fuel by 2010. In New England alone, the rule will reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxide (Nox) pollution by about 40,000 tons a year - or about what is currently emitted by all of New England's power plants.

The Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule is the latest round in EPA's decade-long effort to make diesel engines and fuels cleaner. This new rule complements the Clean Diesel Truck and Bus Rule (announced in December 2000), which will put the cleanest running heavy-duty trucks and buses in history on America's roads, building a fleet that will be 95 percent cleaner than today's trucks and buses. These new standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses take effect with the 2007 model year.

Although EPA's new standards for trucks and buses, as well as for nonroad engines, will make the next generation of diesel vehicles significantly cleaner, it will take a number of years before these new, cleaner engines replace the older engines currently in use. RIPTA is drawing down federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program funds from the US Department of Transportation to equip its buses with advanced pollution controls. This technology represents a cost-effective and practical way to dramatically reduce pollution from diesel vehicles already in use.

Related Information:
Asthma
Diesel Exhaust
Air Enforcement