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Cleaner Air in Boston Anticipated as Clean Diesel Fuel Becomes Widely Available

Release Date: 10/13/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. - Oct. 13, 2006) Residents of greater Boston may begin to notice cleaner air soon, thanks to the widespread availability of new clean diesel fuel across the region and across the country. A key component to EPA's strategy to continue delivering clean air to American citizens, clean diesel fuel is the most far-reaching environmental and public health achievement since lead was removed from gasoline a generation ago.

Called "Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel" (ULSD), the cleaner fuel is now available for both consumers and industrial customers at the pump. The clean-burning fuel - with 97 percent less sulfur than the replaced formulations - is part of a clean air strategy that also requires new engine technology. Together, the new fuel and engine technology will result in cleaner air and help prevent nearly 20,000 premature deaths and tens of thousands of cases of respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma across the nation.

"EPA is proud to deliver cleaner air to New Englanders through the widespread availability of Clean Diesel Fuel," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Over the last century, diesels have been our nation's economic workhorse - reliable, fuel efficient and long lasting. Today, America's economic workhorse will take its turn helping to deliver environmental benefits."

In Massachusetts, lifetime asthma rates in children are estimated to be 14.6 percent, and in some Boston communities, these rates are even higher. EPA has worked with partners such as the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Asthma Regional Council and local government and industry to speed deployment of fleets using the new engine technology to take full advantage of clean diesel fuel. A number of fleets in the Boston area -- MBTA; Boston Public Schools; hospital shuttle buses serving Harvard Medical School, the Dana Farber, Beth Israel Deaconess and other hospitals in the Longwood Medical area; and Massport - have begun using ULSD ahead of schedule, demonstrating the clean air benefits of this fuel. At the MBTA, under special arrangements with Sprague Energy, the entire fleet of diesel powered buses has been using ULSD since 2002 - four years ahead of schedule. The MBTA has also retrofitted its diesel buses with diesel particulate matter filters to reduce particulate matter emissions from each bus by 90%.

"MassDEP supports EPA's efforts to reduce emissions from diesel vehicles," said Arleen O'Donnell, acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "This effort will allow MassDEP to build on the work we have done with the MBTA and other agencies to introduce the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, helping to cut emissions in the Boston area and in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts.

The availability of cleaner-burning diesel at the pump will allow for the use of new pollution control technology in cars, trucks, and buses. EPA's clean diesel rules are addressing diesel fuels and engines as a single system that will reduce air pollution from diesel engines by more than 90 percent -- or about 13 million -- of today's trucks and buses. Once fully implemented, ULSD will result in the annual reduction of 2.6 million tons of nitrogen oxides and 110,000 tons of particulate matter.

"It's gratifying to see EPA addressing the important issue of how diesel emissions affect air quality - especially for people with asthma and other respiratory ailments," remarked Laurie Stillman, Executive Director of the New England Asthma Regional Council . "With the greater availability of cleaner diesel fuel, we will hopefully all reap better health and a cleaner environment, especially folks in urban areas where diesel fumes are the biggest problem."

This new fuel will help to open up markets to clean diesel passenger cars, pickup trucks, and delivery vehicles that are 30 percent more efficient than current fleets with similar reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to the fuel economy and carbon emission benefits, a new fleet of clean diesel vehicles will have lower maintenance costs, longer engine life, and typically lower fuel costs.

On June 1, refiners and fuel importers were required to start producing ULSD, which contains 15 ppm sulfur, down from 500 ppm. The roll-out of clean diesel fuel is smart environmental and fiscal policy. When fully applied, clean diesel fuels and engines will result in more than $70 billion annually in environmental and public health benefits at a fraction of the cost ($4 billion per year). Expanded use of ULSD also will enhance energy security since diesels tend to be more fuel efficient than gasoline engines.

More information:

EPA's efforts to reduce diesel pollution in New England (

national clean diesel programs ( )

Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance, a stakeholder group dedicated to providing the public ULSD-related information ( )