Cat letter campaign urges Oct. 2002 low-nox diesel deadline delay, legal battles breaking out – Caterpillar; nitrogen oxides

Cat letter campaign urges Oct. 2002 low-nox diesel deadline delay, legal battles breaking out – Caterpillar; nitrogen oxides – Brief Article

Caterpillar — the only heavy-duty diesel engine maker claiming it won’t meet U.S. EPA’s October 2002 deadline to produce 2.5 grams/bhp-hr nitrogen oxides (NOx) highway engines — is trying to enlist truckers and truck makers in a letter campaign to Congress and EPA to delay the NOx deadline for another year.

“We encourage you to join this effort and urge the EPA to delay the October 2002 emissions requirements,” a letter dated March 27 from Cat’s VP James Parker says.

While other engine makers are moving to meet the deadline, Cat instead aims to sell an engine that’s “close” to the 2.5 grams/brake horsepower-hour NOx limit in October, and pay non-conformance penalties (NCPs).

Cat aims to debut its “Acert” combination of engine controls and oxidation catalyst by the third quarter of 2003 that will meet (or even beat) the 2002 limits. However, production of Acert engines will begin in “early 2003,” Parker’s letter says.

Cat told us that the letter is in response to requests from several trucking companies urging a delay in order to avoid excessive engine costs for companies barely coming out of the recession-induced trucking slump.

The Cat letter also claims that engine makers could “pay back — ton-for-ton — excess NOx emitted during the 12-month postponement” by a special written agreement with EPA.

Cat’s competitors are using cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet the low-NOx limits imposed by a consent decree with EPA. Cat claims that such technology is too costly and could employ illegal “defeat devices” that turn off EGR for significant periods of operation.

The Cat letter to truckers and truck-makers also claims that “by EPA’s own estimates, cooled EGR technology could cost the end-customer as much as an additional $15,000 per vehicle over the period of ownership … 50% more for the engine alone, with higher operating costs and up to 4% lower fuel economy.”

Cat’s letter also claimed that no engine maker had an engine certified with EPA for October 2002 limits — but Cummins now has official EPA certification, and has begun shipping such engines to International, one of its truck-making customers.

Meantime, Detroit Diesel (DDC) confirms that it will indeed “provide engines in October 2002 that meet EPA requirements without penalties or [exhaust] aftertreatment devices”

As for Cat’s attack on EGR, “we believe there are similar and substantial costs also involved in the one other alternative technology considered,” DDC’s CEO Lud Koci said.

DDC began testing of EGR-equipped trucks early last year and has accelerated its road testing, Koci said. The company has put over 2,500 heavy-duty engines with cooled EGR into service since 1999, he said. Two more prototype Series 60 engines were put into revenue service in February, while other pre-production test engines “are being released to other customers for evaluation,” DDC said.

Hot on the heels of the Cat letter campaign, now the lawyers are coming out of the woodwork.

Four trucking companies took their complaints to U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia last week, claiming that EPA’s 2004 emissions limits should be extended another year, for economic reasons.

While American Trucking Associations isn’t party to the suit, an ATA source told us that if the court agrees with the legal claims, then it’s possible that the October 2002 deadline (for five “consent decree” engine makers) could also be pushed back, since the 2002 limits are identical to the 2004 limits.

Meantime, Cat told us it’s suing Cummins over use of what Cat claims is an illegal “defeat device” EGR control.

The so-called auxiliary engine control devices (AECDs) were approved by EPA only to protect engines at certain temperatures or altitudes where EGR could cause catastrophic engine damage (see Diesel Fuel News 4/1/02, p11).

* EGR: No Improvement?

Problem: If the AECDs are allowed to turn-off EGR for significant portions of a truck’s operating cycle, then nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions will rise significantly, making an EGR engine no better than Cat’s more conventional October 2002 engine, Cat told us. That means only Cat will be paying NCPs even though its competitors aren’t necessarily putting out less emissions; hence the lawsuit, Cat claims.

Cat claims that since trucking companies are either pre-buying engines today to avoid October EGR engines, or else delaying truck purchases for at least a year following October, then there’s no net environmental improvement by forcing engine companies to stick to the October 2002 NOx deadline.

That contention isn’t winning points among some environmentalists, as Clean Air Trust spokesman Frank O’Donnell told us.

“It’s outrageous that Caterpillar would use such vile scare tactics on its customers just because it failed to produce a clean technology in a timely manner,” O’Donnell claims. “This stealth lobbying blitz [the letter campaign] by Caterpillar appears designed to pressure EPA — and permit Caterpillar to avoid having to pay stiff fines for selling a non-compliant engine.”

Cat’s response: “This accusation is misleading,” spokesman Carl Volz told us. “We’ve come up with the most responsible environmental solution. It’s not a ‘stealth campaign.’ It’s very public. Our customers asked us to help them postpone the deadline.”

In any case, fleets “aren’t going to buy” many EGR-equipped engines, Cat’s technical manager John Amdall told us. “We’ll pay back the emissions that will happen [during the post-October interim], whereas the Clean Air Trust deadline demand means there’ll be more old trucks on the road, more pre-buying, higher emissions — it’s lose-lose for everyone, instead of win-win.”


COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group