Boston Diesel Emissions Ordinance

April 9, 2015

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Tuesday that he  supports the “Diesel and Vehicular Emissions Ordinance,” filed by City Councilor Stephen Murphy to help reduce harmful emissions from diesel vehicles and idling. The proposed ordinance requires all pre-2007 vehicles owned or leased by the City or used by its contractors to have been retrofit with more effective emission-reduction equipment. It also simplifies and unifies the authority for the City of Boston to enforce the current state-wide anti-idling laws in a consistent way.iStock_000006244918Large

“We have an opportunity to shape policies that will protect our environment and our residents from unnecessary air pollutants,” said Mayor Walsh. “I thank Councilor Murphy for his partnership in working together to create a healthier Boston.”

Since 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has considerably lowered the amount of pollution permissible from new diesel vehicles and equipment. However, because of their durability, many pre-2007 diesel vehicles remain in use. For this reason, federal, state, and local governments have established programs to encourage the installation of retrofit air pollution control equipment on diesel vehicles and other diesel engines.

“The asthma rate in Boston’s neighborhoods continues to climb,” said Councilor Murphy. “By further tightening air quality standards, as this ordinance does, we will make Boston’s neighborhoods healthier.”

“I am proud to work with Mayor Walsh and my colleagues on this important issue,” said Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. “Diesel emissions are harmful to our environment and to human health. While there are many sources of diesel emissions both locally and regionally, it is important that the City does everything it can to reduce its own emissions.”

Through a combination of federal and state grants and City funds, most of the City’s diesel school buses are already later model years with built-in pollution-reduction equipment or model-year 2006 or earlier retrofit with the highest level of pollution reduction equipment feasible. The rest of the City’s diesel fleet includes about 328 diesel units, not including emergency vehicles, and about 153 of them are pre-2007. For several years, the Public Works Department has been installing diesel oxidation catalysts, which reduce particulate emissions 20 percent, on diesel units as they need muffler replacements.

The proposed Ordinance has been under development for several years, with active engagement from Councilor Murphy, Felix Arroyo, now the City’s Chief of Health and Human Services, and community groups such as Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and Clean Water Action.

The ordinance would generally require all pre-2007 City-owned or operated vehicles to have equipment that reduces diesel emissions by at least 20 percent by the end of 2015. There are exceptions for emergency vehicles, snow removal equipment, and equipment rarely used.

Requirements for diesel vehicles and equipment used on new City contracts over $2M would phase in over three years.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts limits unnecessary idling to five minutes. There are more stringent rules in school zones. These limits are contained, in various forms, in both Massachusetts general laws and in environmental regulations, and the different agencies of the City of Boston derive their authority under different provisions with different enforcement mechanisms and fines. The proposed ordinance simplifies and unifies the authority for Boston Police Department, Boston Transportation Department, and the Air Pollution Control Commission to enforce the current state-wide limits in a consistent way. It does not change those limits. Fines for violation of the idling rules will be $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

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