Environmental groups push state for new diesel filters

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Capital News Service
LANSING – An environmental coalition is pushing to require all diesel trucks, buses and construction vehicles in the state to install a filter to catch pollutants from exhaust fumes.
The Michigan Diesel Cleanup Campaign wants the legislature to mandate filters that make diesel exhaust much cleaner, according to Lynna Kaucheck, the senior organizer of Michigan Clean Water Action, one of the groups working on the campaign. Her group says that diesel pollution can cause 443 deaths and 57,000 missed days of work in Michigan.
Filters that use technology approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are already present on trucks and buses manufactured after 2007, Kaucheck said.
“There are 12 companies that manufacture diesel particulate filters in North America. Two of those are in Michigan,”she said.
Those two companies are Detroit Diesel Corp. in Detroit and Tinnerman Shadowood in Southfield.
Filters can cost between $3,000 and $13,000, according to Kaucheck.
“It kind of looks like an accordion box,” she said. “You wouldn’t even know that it was a filter unless you held it up to the light and saw light coming through it. It looks like it’s solid. That’s where all the black carbon and diesel exhaust gets caught.”
Walter Heinritzi, the executive director of the Michigan Trucking Association, said that he doesn’t comment on proposed legislation before it reaches the House or Senate.
But, he said, “in general terms we are opposed to any Michigan-only rules or regulations. Since we’re an interstate business, we like to look to the federal level for this sort of thing.”
Diesel exhaust can cause health problems, Rachel Hood, the executive director of the Western Michigan Environmental Action Council in Grand Rapids said.
The exhaust contains carcinogens and other harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, she said.
“Our concern is primarily around children’s health,” Hood said.
“Those carcinogens create adverse birth outcomes, elevated asthma attacks, emergency room visits, heart attacks, neurological damage and early deaths,” she said. “The health risks are highest in urban areas, but the pollution is everywhere, and children are more at risk than adults.”
The coalition wants the state to create a fund to put the filters into diesel engines. Kaucheck said that fund would make the requirement fairer, and less likely to generate opposition.
“We need to provide incentives for the legislation to go anywhere,” she said. “If we’re just flat out requiring that all vehicles have this filter and not offering any type of assistance, it just won’t get done.”
Kaucheck said the coalition is trying to determine the best way to finance such a fund, but that one possibility is to use fines for violations of EPA rules on particulates.
Kaucheck said that the coalition is working with legislators to find sponsorship.
The coalition also wants an inventory of the diesel engines in the state and a time limit on how long diesel engines can idle. The limit, to reduce pollution, would allow a truck to idle for no more than five minutes every hour, except when weather becomes too hot or cold. The inventory would likely be managed by the Secretary of State, according to Kaucheck
“It could be as simple as a box you check when you register your vehicle for new tags,” she said.
The proposed filter requirement would apply only to vehicles registered in Michigan, but idling limits would apply to all trucks operating in the state.
“The different states have set different rules up,” Kaucheck said. “There are idling limitations in 20 states. We can’t require any vehicles coming into the state to have filters. We can require them to abide by our idling limitations.”
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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