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Tuesday, September 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Even some foes cheer Bush for new diesel-pollution rules

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While environmentalists and many Democrats in Congress consistently disparaged the Bush administration's clean-air record, one of the president's most far-reaching achievements went largely unheralded.

This summer, President Bush unveiled new rules that are expected to reduce enough air pollution to annually prevent 12,000 deaths, 15,000 heart attacks and 6,000 emergency-room visits by children for asthma-related problems.

Bush agreed to cut diesel pollution 90 percent in everything from tractors and construction equipment to lawnmowers, forklifts and diesel generators.

The administration also forced the refining industry to reduce sulfur — the primary ingredient in ozone pollution — in fuel by 99 percent.

What it means is "that black puff of smoke that you see from diesel vehicles is going to be a thing of the past," said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Coming on the heels of President Clinton's efforts to cut diesel emissions from cars and trucks, the move is so dramatic even some Bush opponents applauded him.

"The nonroad diesel rule is a genuine accomplishment for the administration," said Blake Early, a policy analyst with the American Lung Association, which has otherwise been highly critical of the White House's clean-air policies.

Eric Schaeffer, the former director of the Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement office, quit in anger in 2002 over the White House's controversial changes to air-pollution rules for power-plant emissions.

But of the diesel changes, he said, "It's a big rule and rules are complicated, and you have to work to get them through. They deserve credit."

The Bush administration also moved to tighten diesel rules in the future for trains and most ships, including ferries, though the requirement won't apply to the largest ocean-going vessels.
By 2012, diesel fuel for all of those engines is to drop in sulfur content from 3,000 parts per million to 15 parts per million.

"The case against diesel was becoming hard to ignore," Early said.

— Craig Welch

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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