Disaffection with Clinton administration efforts to control sooty emissions from big trucks has prompted 13 states to join California in pursuit of tougher controls for diesel engines.
In a landmark action, air quality officials from Northeast and Sunbelt states -- home to some of the United States' worst smog -- are scheduled to announce Monday in Washington, D.C., that they will require engines to meet stringent testing protocols to cut sooty exhaust between 2004 and 2007.
While the specific measure they seek is but one component in a wider assault on truck pollution, it is rich in symbolism as well as environmental benefits.
The move will mark the first time states have used their authority to act independently of the federal government to reduce exhaust from heavy-duty diesel engines that power big trucks. Under federal law, states are allowed to take such action as long as they proceed in concert with California, which has long been allowed to impose tougher air pollution requirements than the rest of the country. California officials are expected to adopt a model regulation next month.
The proposal by the states would slash emissions from diesel trucks by 27 tons daily in California and New York alone -- reductions that many areas must have if they hope to meet federal deadlines for achieving healthful air before the end of the decade.
In addition to California, participants in the so-called multistate clean diesel initiative include New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Nevada.
Diesel-powered trucks and buses are a major pollution source and target of complaints from motorists and pedestrians who gag on clouds of carbon soot and gas. Diesel exhaust includes a nitrogen-based gas that contributes to smog and is a prime source of tiny particles that create haze and have been linked to cancer.
Although heavy-duty engines are cleaner today, they have not been controlled as extensively as cars or many factories, in large part because their reliability, fuel efficiency and service to U.S. commerce make them difficult to replace.
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