Cleaner Diesel Now the Rule in Texas

A new state law that requires cleaner-burning diesel fuel in more than 100 Texas counties should have an immediate effect on Houston's air. The new regulations will remove thousands of tons of pollution from Texas air every year.

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The Texas Low Emission Diesel rule took effect at the end of October and requires producers and importers of diesel fuel to provide a cleaner burning product to some of the largest counties in the state, including the Houston-Galveston area. Morris Brown is with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality's Emissions Reductions Program and says producers have several options, including simply producing cleaners fuel or mixing additives to the fuel after it's already produced.

The new rules are an attempt to clean-up what is considered one of the primary culprits when it comes to dirty air. EPA data shows diesel exhaust makes-up 80-percent of the airborne cancer risk because of the small particles and toxic gases the fuel produces. Brown says the new regulations should have an immediate effect. "With fuel control programs, as soon as the fuel reaches the consumer basically, you start seeing emission reductions just because it's an immediate effect where the fuel is being burned in the vehicle and it's a cleaner fuel," he says.

A new plant in Pasadena is formulating one of the additives that can be used to make diesel cleaner. The product is called OR-LED and is made by California-based Oryxe Energy. The company's Bill Barkovitz says the additive causes diesel to burn more completely. "The additive, when put into standard EPA diesel fuel, reduces the nitrogen oxides by 6-percent. So that's going to equate to between 6000-10,000 tons of reduction of NOX put into the air in Texas in the non-attainment areas," he says.

The Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention's John Wilson says the new diesel rules are a big part of the continuing battle to clean the city's air. "The change in Texas to lower-emission diesel fuel is a big step forward for air quality. It's going to benefit us in terms of regional ozone protection and it's going benefit us in terms of progress towards cleaning up other kinds of toxic diesel pollution," he says.

Operators of bulk fuel terminals have until December 15th to comply with the new rules. Regulators gave them the extra time in order to get rid of their old fuel and begin distributing the new, cleaner diesel.

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