Lower expectations

Sept. 20, 2002
It's not the best or worst of times for industry as far as clean diesel regulations goes.

Maureen Lorenzetti

It's not the best or worst of times for industry as far as clean diesel regulations goes.
But it is becoming a season of lower expectations. Refiners worry that the US Environmental Protection Agency is ignoring potential supply problems that might occur when clean highway diesel fuel rules begin in mid-2006.
Fuel suppliers unsuccessfully urged EPA to expand the scope of an independent panel now finishing its work reviewing technology issues related to the 15 ppm low-sulfur diesel standard (OGJ, Aug. 5, 2002, p. 25).

Dissension in the air
The panel includes refiners, environmentalists, state air regulators, and engine makers. EPA will host the fourth and final meeting in Washington, DC, Sept. 24-25 with a final report issued soon thereafter. Some refiners, however, say they may not sign that final report if EPA won't consider nontechnical challenges.
"EPA seems determined to have the panel's report state that there are no problems," said a midsized refiner. "We would like the report to say that the fuels industry is making progress towards compliance with the highway diesel rule and at this time that progress is on schedule and perhaps slightly ahead of schedule."
EPA, along with state regulators and environmentalists, say the review panel should stick to its original, technology-driven focus. Seeking to mollify refiner concerns, the agency agreed last month to hold a November workshop in Houston addressing supply-related issues including equipment requirements, test methods, tank segregation, liability, and the impact the rule may have on heating oil markets.
Refiners, however, say the workshop isn't enough.
"There remain a number of key issues which can have a major impact on implementation of the rule. EPA needs to track the progress in resolving these issues and take steps if necessary to ensure that they are resolved on time and will not effect implementation," a refinery panel member said.
Some refiners warn that shipping issues may mean that as little as 36% of the 15 ppm diesel made at the refinery will still be "pure" enough at the pipeline terminus to meet EPA standards.
Industry officials expect to submit written questions to EPA ahead of the workshop and ask questions during the session; a series of question-and-answer documents will be published that will act as an enforcement guide.

Other views
Meanwhile, environmentalists said industry's disagreements over the rule should not preclude them from participating in a final report.
"Since EPA has agreed, appropriately, to hold a workshop on fuel supply and related issues, we hope the petroleum industry representatives on the 'clean diesel' panel will agree that technology is proceeding on track and that there is no reason to change the diesel truck and highway diesel fuel standards," said Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust. "We think it would be a show of bad faith if the petroleum representatives refuse to sign the panel's final report or file a minority report. "