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EPA Chief Vows to ‘De-Diesel’ Air

November 2, 2004

Diesel smoke is about to go the way of the rumble seat, the nation's top environmental officer told a Phoenix audience Oct. 27, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. “Within a decade, we will rarely ever see that black puff of diesel smoke,” Mike Leavitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said at a clean-air awards ceremony. That means cleaner air and fewer health problems from diesel emissions, both in Phoenix and nationally. Leavitt was a high-profile and last-minute addition to the Clean Air Campaign's annual awards bash, at which local companies are recognized for efforts to reduce driving. He touted the non-road diesel rule, which he signed in April, as paving the way for a phase out over the next decade of the obnoxious smoke and smell created by diesel engines used in locomotives, boats, and construction equipment. The reforms follow diesel clean-up regulations started under the Clinton administration, and supported by the Bush administration, to reduce the sulfur content in diesel fuel. The improvements will begin in 2007 and play out over the next decade, Leavitt said. Leavitt lauded the collaborative work done by local groups to cut urban air pollution, such as the carpool, vanpool, transit, and telework options. “Clean air is a national success story,” he told the audience of Phoenix-area employers and government officials. "The air is cleaner today than it was a year ago." But the local Sierra Club issued a news release giving Leavitt a “Smoggy” award for Bush administration policies that the club believes roll back progress on air quality. “Carpools will not be enough to clean up industrial haze at the Grand Canyon, reduce mercury in the air, or reduce the brown clouds over Phoenix and Tucson,” Sierra Club representative Rob Smith stated in a news release. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have been critical of a Bush initiative that would scrap existing Clean Air Act rules on power plants and replace them with a rule that administration officials say will lead power plants to cut their overall emissions by 70 percent. But Leavitt said that rule, called the Clean-Air Interstate Rule, is a collaborative solution that will do more to cut power-plant emissions than suing power plants one at a time for failing to meet existing laws. He said he intends to sign that rule later this year.
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