updated 11/17/2004 1:15:55 PM ET 2004-11-17T18:15:55

After years of resistance, the U.S. trucking industry says it will not try to impede or delay a new federal rule aimed at cutting diesel pollution.

The American Trucking Associations, a trade group, is satisfied by the Bush administration’s attention to industry concerns, the group’s officials say. The Clinton-era rule backed by President Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency in 2001 requires cleaner diesel fuel beginning in 2006, and less-polluting diesel engines in tractor-trailer rigs and other heavy-duty trucks and buses starting in 2007. All new engines would be covered by 2010.

“Many environmental groups have been concerned that ATA will seek a delay in the implementation of the rule. I can tell you without reservation that ATA does not intend to challenge EPA’s diesel engine emission standards,” Bill Graves, the group’s president, said in a prepared speech that he planned to deliver Wednesday afternoon.

“It is very clear to ATA and the motor carrier industry that this rule will result in significant positive impacts on the quality of our nation’s air,” Graves, a former Republican governor of Kansas, says in the speech, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.

The new rule requires refiners to lower the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel for truck and bus engines from the current level of 500 parts per million down to less than 15 parts per million by June 2006. That means less pollution will come out of the tailpipes.

It also requires manufacturers to phase in between 2007 and 2010 cleaner-burning diesel engines for tractor-trailer rigs and other heavy-duty trucks and buses.

EPA calls it 'great news'
“This is great news. This will result in dramatic emission reductions and improve air quality for millions of Americans,” EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said Wednesday.

About 159 million people live in areas where smog or microscopic soot makes the air unhealthy, the EPA says in a recent analysis.

The EPA estimated the new rule will cut emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, soot, carbon monoxide, acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide and other air toxics, preventing 8,300 premature deaths, more than 9,500 hospitalizations and 1.5 million lost work days.

New trucks will cost an average $5,000 to $10,000 more and the fuel economy is expected to be only slightly less efficient, according to the trade group.

After a scandal involving the sale of heavy-duty engines with computer software that altered pollution-control equipment under highway driving conditions, engine manufacturers agreed to pay $850 million to produce cleaner engines after Oct. 1, 2002. The EPA created the 2007 rule as the next step in reducing diesel emissions.

The trucking and petroleum industries and other businesses had fought the 1997 EPA health standards for limiting the amount of soot in the air. Those standards were used as a basis for the 2007 diesel rule and other diesel-cutting regulations. The health standards were delayed several years by unsuccessful court challenges.

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