The nation's top state environmental policymakers today heard how states can achieve the most cost-effective and immediate air emission reductions by targeting the largest sources of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and replacing or upgrading those with the newest generation of clean diesel technology.
Speaking at the Spring Meeting of the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, highlighted the environmental benefits of new diesel technology during a panel discussion focusing on the best investments for states with the $2.9 billion Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. ECOS is an organization representing the nation's top appointed environmental officials from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Schaeffer said each state has both a unique opportunity and a firm obligation to ensure that the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust funds are effectively utilized for the purpose of reducing NOx emissions. He also stressed during this time of change in state and federal environmental regulatory and funding relationships that the trust fund be invested in its stated purpose - to mitigate NOx emissions that occurred from the VW vehicles that were exceeding EPA emissions standards - and not be spent for other purposes. Schaeffer said that while there may be other benefits that accrue from the investment of these funds, those are secondary to the trust's goal of reducing NOx emissions.
He noted that in California, state air regulators have said the fastest reductions in NOx emissions in 2035 in their state won't come from power plants or even electrification of passenger vehicles, but rather from the turnover of old-to-new commercial trucks powered with the latest clean diesel engines.
States Should Target Largest Sources of NOx with Verified Technology
As each state begins deliberations on how to spend their portion of the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust funds, Schaeffer said their project selection process should be guided by four basic criteria:
- Projects must target the largest sources of NOx emissions;
- Technology choices must be verified as effective in delivering NOx reductions;
- Projects should emphasis the timeliness of the actual NOx reductions;
- And projects should maximize the use of funds available by selecting those that deliver maximum NOx reductions per dollar invested.
Schaeffer said when these simple criteria are applied, it would be clear that in nearly every case, upgrading, replacing or repowering engines and machines to new clean diesel technology would deliver more clean air for the dollar, faster and benefit more residents.
New Clean Diesel Technology Proven to Be Most Cost-Effective Investment
Schaeffer also noted that the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that one ton of NOx emissions may be eliminated by investing, on average, $20,000 in clean diesel technology versus, on average, $1 million in electric infrastructure.
Schaeffer outlined the significant NOx reduction impact of upgrading larger engines with clean diesel technology:
- A single older marine engine to the newest generation clean diesel technology would deliver emission benefits equivalent to replacing 74,000 cars for an entire year.
- Replacing one older Class 8 truck with a new clean diesel truck would reduce 1,282 pounds of NOx annually at a cost of just $86/lb. – the lowest cost when compared to other fuels and technologies.
The VW settlement includes a $2.9 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust to "fully mitigate the total, lifetime excess NOx emissions" generated by the 550,000 light-duty VW diesel vehicles found to have been outfitted with the means to skirt emissions standards established by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
In most states, the largest sources of NOx emissions are older heavy-duty vehicles and large equipment, including trucks, buses, construction equipment, locomotives and marine workboats, so targeting these sources in high traffic areas like ports and freight corridor states will most effectively reduce emissions and improve air quality, Schaeffer said.