Companies dependent on diesel fuel worry about what California will decide on limit rules

Two very different industries are interested in what happens with state rules that limit diesel air pollution from heavy machinery. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports on an issue before the Air Resources Board.

Air quality officials have targeted diesel engines – the soot and chemicals they spew can harm human health and warm the climate. In a slow economy, the companies that make and use bulldozers, backhoes and other heavy trucks – all with diesel engines – worry that the present deadlines for cleanup could eviscerate their businesses.

Then there’s Phil Roberts. His company, Extengine, makes what some call scrubbers – aftermarket filters that clean up to 80 percent of soot and other diesel engine pollution.

Delaying compliance could harm his enterprise. "There’s going to be less demand at least at the present time for diesel retrofits," says Roberts.

Roberts has developed systems to meet complex air regulations in California – a process that takes several years and millions of dollars. "Effectively it’s going to put our business on hold."

That’s happened before. These aren’t the first diesel deadlines air regulators have delayed.

Roberts says Exengine is struggling. "Well, we’ve had to lay off a total of about seven."

A slow economy may have slowed the use of diesel machinery. The state estimates 20 percent less diesel pollution than it had anticipated.

But Roberts may not be the only frustrated businessman. Some diesel owners have already bought filters – so a delay could save their competitors money.

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