Environmentalists Dump Dirty Diesels
In early April, under intense pressure from the Natural Resources Defense Council and a broad coalition of environmental, civic, business and labor organizations (including Transportation Alternatives), Governor George E. Pataki announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority would commit to a fleet-wide strategy of drastically reducing emissions from its fleet of over 4,200 diesel buses. In addition, the MTA would sharply increase its commitment to cleaner fuels like compressed natural gas (CNG). The win is a huge victory for NRDC's Dump Dirty Diesels Campaign, led by attorney Richard Kassel, which has been working to clean up the MTA bus fleet since 1993.
The historic agreement includes commitments to: (1) eliminate dirty diesels and create the world's cleanest transit fleet; (2) add 300 CNG buses and 250 hybrid-electric buses to the fleet and build three new depots that are CNG-compatible; (3) use low-sulfur diesel fuel and install advanced emission controls on over 3,000 remaining diesel buses by the end of 2003; (4) accelerate the phase-out of the oldest, dirtiest diesels in the fleet; (5) establish a public process led by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to create a vehicle-based emissions standard that would require all new bus purchases to meet CNG emissions levels, regardless of the fuel used; and (6) to establish New York State's first emissions testing facility for diesel buses and trucks.
Traditional diesel vehicles emit huge quantities of asthma-attack-inducing particulate matter-more than 40 carcinogens, and high quantities of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. In contrast, CNG buses emit virtually no particulate matter, few toxic chemicals and many fewer smog-forming nitrogen oxides. The MTA's commitment should mean cleaner air for every New Yorker, a huge reduction in emissions that have been linked to both asthma and cancer, and improved bus service throughout the City.