The Associated General Contractors of America and the California Air Resources Board have reached an official agreement to postpone the beginning of compliance of the state’s off-road diesel emission rules until 2014.

Mary Nichols

In a joint announcement, Mary Nichols, CARB chairman, and Michael Kennedy, AGC’s general counsel, agreed that they would continue to work together to resolve the technical details attached with a complex set of regulations that CARB put into motion in 2007.

“Stretching out the timelines and reporting requirements will make the path to compliance a lot easier while the construction industry recovers from severe financial hardships,” says Nichols, who adds that the added time will allow the marketplace to “create a turnover” of old equipment.

The proposed changes will need approval from the CARB board at its next hearing on Dec. 16-17.

Kennedy adds 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 from its own study by Sierra Research, and over the summer the board staff largely confirmed them.

Michael Kennedy

In CARB hearings over the last few months, board members have expressed concerns about the viability of the board’s data.

“We are not in the business of attacking each other’s studies,” acknowledges Nichols.

“The new estimates provided a common starting point for changes that everyone agreed the data should drive,” Kennedy says.

CARB says the newly proposed amendments would streamline the compliance process and offer businesses additional time and flexible options to meet requirements. They would also provide credits for efforts already made to reduce emissions, and incentivize continued early actions.

If approved, the changes will:

  • Delay start of requirements until Jan. 1, 2014
  • Increase the number of “low-use” equipment exempted
  • Provide simpler compliance options for the smallest fleets
  • Extend benefits for businesses that comply before their deadline
  • Lower annual requirements to clean up engines

First adopted in July 2007, the rule affects the state’s estimated 150,000 off-road vehicles used in construction, mining, airport ground support and other industries. It called for installation of diesel soot filters and the replacement of older, dirtier engines with newer emission-controlled models to curb diesel exhaust. Improvements were originally scheduled to begin in March 2010 for larger fleets, with medium and small-sized fleets having staggered implementation through 2015.

Other portions of the regulation that went into effect this year, including reporting, idling and equipment labeling requirements for all fleets, remain intact and are being enforced.

Though there have been reports of large numbers of unreported heavy-duty construction equipment operating (or not operating) in the state, Nichols says she thinks it is a “smaller number and we’ll continue to make efforts to indentify what’s out there.”

Regardless of the disagreements between AGC and the CARB, both officials acknowledged that they will work together in the future. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Kennedy, who has long fought the implementation of the rules. “We will now work with the CARB in a serious way, sharing analysis and coming up with new emissions estimates. The industry will do its part to enhance the state’s air quality.”

“We applaud the AGC for showing leadership on this issue and recognizing that California needs to control all sources of diesel emissions,” adds Nichols.