Capitol Comments

EPA Seeks To Reduce Pollutants In Diesel Engines

By Peter Mayberry and Jessica Franken | December 4, 2009

rule could impact 81,500 engines and cost $57 million a year

On June 29, the U.S. Environ­mental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed a rule intended to reduce the release of several harmful pollutants from stationary diesel engines used to generate electricity, as well as power pumps and compressors located at industrial facilities across the country.Specifically, the "Standards of Performance for Stationary Compression Ignition Internal Combustion Engines" proposal (40 CFR Parts 60, 85, 89, 94, 1029, 1065) establishes emissions limits and other requirements for "new" stationary diesel engines thatare defined as those manufactured or ordered after June 29, 2005 or those that are modified or reconstructed after April 2006.


The anticipated impact of this proposed regulation is extremely broad.According to EPA, in fact, once the rule has been finalized it will eventually impact some 81,500 stationary diesel engines every year. The rule could also impose capital costs in the range of $67 million during the first year of implementation, and $57 million compliance costs annually thereafter.In return, EPA projects that the proposed emissions controls will reduce a variety of dangerous pollutants, including nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), by as much as 68,000 tons per year by the year 2015.


But what makes this rulemaking effort particularly interesting for nonwovens producers is that, as proposed, use of fabric filtration devices is strongly urged by EPA on certain types of stationary diesel engines. In this article, therefore, we will review the background leading up to EPA's action, and outline some of the key details contained in the proposed rule.


Senate Approves CAFTA-DR, House Action Pending

The Bush Administration's U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) cleared a significant hurdle June 30 when the U.S. Senate voted to approve legislation implementing the free trade agreement (S.1307) by a vote of 54-45.Earlier that same day, the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives voted 25-16 to favorably report implementing legislation (H.R. 3045), thus setting the stage for the pact's consideration in the full House of Representatives.


CAFTA-DR supporters hailed the June 30 votes, saying they gave much needed momentum for the trade initiative.Even still, the agreement faces an uphill battle in the House, where the Bush Administration has been struggling to cobble together enough votes to pass the measure. Indeed, the vast majority of House Democrats have already announced their opposition to the pact due to labor and environmental concerns, while a number of Republicans from districts with textile and sugar industry interests have also said they plan to vote against the agreement.


Regardless, House Congressional leaders have vowed to bring the implementing legislation up for a vote before lawmakers adjourn for the August recess on July 29.


If enacted, the CAFTA-DR would create a free trade area between the U.S., the Dominican Republic and five Central American nations—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—and would extend free trade benefits to the U.S. that have only been available to the Central American countries under pre-existing unilateral trade preference programs.


For more information, or to learn how you can get involved, please call either Peter Mayberry or Jessica Franken, 703-538-8805.


Regulatory History

The stationary diesel engine standards are being promulgated under requirements outlined in Section 111(b) the Clean Air Act (CAA).Section 111(b) requires EPA to periodically identify and target certain industries for the development of New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), which establish monitoring, recordkeeping and emission control requirements for new stationary sources of unsafe air pollutants.These sources must then limit emissions to the level achievable by what the Agency determines to be the "best demonstrated technology" (BDT), bearing in mind related costs and other possible environmental impacts.


But even though the proposed rule has been issued by EPA in order to meet CAA statutory obligations, the effort has a storied past that dates back more than two decades.


Indeed, the Agency first proposed the New Source Performance Standards for stationary diesel engines in 1979, but they were never finalized.As a result of this lapse, emissions from stationary engines have been subject to a complex system of state and/or local regulations and permit policies for more than 25 years.


In 2003, however, the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California calling for Federal emissions standards for these engines. The case was ultimately settled in 2004, with EPA accepting a consent decree that, among other things, required the Agency to propose stationary diesel engine emission standards by June 29, 2005. The Agency met this requirement by publishing its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the June 29 edition of the Federal Register.


As noted in the preamble to the proposed rule, the standards will apply to "any internal combustion engine, except combustion turbines, that converts heat energy into mechanical energy and is not mobile." The proposal also distinguishes between non-emergency engines (i.e. those used to generate electricity at industrial facilities and to pump power) and emergency engines which are used as generators and water pumps for fire and flood control during emergencies.


In addition to NOx and SO2, the NSPS seeks to limit the release of carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter (PM) and hydrocarbons (HC)—all of which, according to EPA, can lead to a host of human health problems such as cancer, asthma and other respiratory problems.The Agency also claims that these emissions may contribute to the development of acid rain, ground-level ozone and haze.


Monitoring, recordkeeping and emission control requirements outlined in the proposed rule would be phased in over three separate stages carried out between 2007 and 2015.


The first stage, EPA explains, is a transition period that will focus on diesel engines built after the rule was proposed but before the 2007 model year.During this first stage, EPA believes that most industrial facilities will be able to comply with the new regulations simply by purchasing a certified engine and maintaining that engine according to manufacturer's instructions.


During the second stage—beginning in model year 2007—engine manufacturers and operators would be required to certify that all new engines meet stringent emission levels for the targeted pollutants based on tiered requirements related to the engine's model year and size. These proposed requirements are modeled on standards outlined in existing EPA regulations for non-road diesel engines.


The final stage would begin with engines manufactured during the 2011 model year and would last until 2015.During this stage, add-on controls would be required to achieve the emissions limits for non-emergency engines.


EPA identifies a number of specific BDT add-on controls that could be used to comply with the proposed standards based on the engine's size and capacity (described by horsepower and liter-per-cylinder displacement). The Agency also cites NOx adsorber technologies and selective catalytic reduction systems as the best compliance options for non-emergency engines with 75 horsepower or greater with a displacement of less than or equal to 10 cylinders.


Of interest to the nonwoven fabrics industry, EPA identifies catalyzed diesel particulate filters (CDPF) used in conjunction with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel as BDT for reducing PM, CO and non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC) in non-emergency engines greater than 25 HP with a displacement of less than 10 liters per cylinder. This is noteworthy because CDPFs can be made using fabric and nonwovens. Further, the proposed rule specifically notes that the best emissions plan is one that includes, "an averaging, banking and trading program, [and] that allows for the use of other potential technologies that meet or exceed standards," possibly creating even more opportunities for our industry down the road.


Looking Forward

The settlement from the Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit requires the Agency to complete the rulemaking no later than June 28, 2006.In the meantime, EPA has announced that it will hold a public hearing on August 23, 2005 and will accept public comments addressing the proposed rule until September 9, 2005.For more information on this topic:

Peter Mayberry's column appears monthly in Nonwovens Industry.

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