Dirty diesel poses unnecessary risks

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

Through an exemption in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Alaska is allowed to burn the dirtiest diesel fuel in the USA. Alaska's diesel fuel is six times more toxic, containing an unregulated 2,700 ppm average sulfur content, compared to 500 ppm in the Lower 48 and Canada. Now, the rest of the country is preparing to move to ultra-low sulfur diesel by 2007, which contains only 15 ppm. Alaska is once again seeking an exemption to this law, continuing on the path to be the only state in America not practicing these basic health standards.

Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act to clean up sulfur because: Sulfur emissions cause cancer, genetic mutations, and other health ailments (asthma, bronchitis); diesel-equipped engines can emit 30-100 times more pollution than gasoline cars; and over 90 percent of diesel emission is small enough to enter the lungs.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently issued a study stating:

Children who ride diesel school buses may be exposed to as much as four times or more toxic diesel exhaust than people riding in vehicles traveling directly behind such buses; and exposure levels on the buses are more than eight times the average ambient pollution level in California, and as much as 46 times the diesel fumes cancer risk exposure threshold established by the EPA. Roughly 48,000 children ride the bus to school in Alaska where diesel is six times dirtier.

Cleaner diesel fuel will benefit not only school children, but truck drivers and everyone else. I wonder why the Alaska Trucking Association continues to fight clean air standards in Alaska when ironically truckers are set to benefit the most from the new national standard. The exhaust they breathe will be less toxic and the cleaner diesel causes less wear and tear on the truck engines and saves money.

Why have there been no health studies on long-term impact of dirty diesel? Why have there been no administrative adjustments in regulations to get cleaner diesel faster for students and elderly? Why are inflated industry estimates of cost accepted at face value?

Gov. Tony Knowles protected clean air when he was mayor of Anchorage. He needs to stand up to industry again so Alaska can meet national diesel standards with the rest of the nation.

Janet Kussart

A diesel truck driver's wife


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