The EPA is giving diesel engine makers a break from meeting certain Clean Air Act requirements because of challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Public health and legal concerns may have hindered manufacturers’ ability to adhere to certification and compliance activities for engines, vehicles, and other equipment, according to a Monday letter from the agency.
The letter comes amid the EPA’s temporary enforcement policy, which gives companies leeway on certain environmental requirements as they adjust to public health guidelines. The policy, which has prompted lawsuits from states and others, is set to expire at the end of August.
For diesel engine manufacturers, the EPA said they must notify the agency if they can’t meet the Clean Air Act certification and compliance requirements, which the agency would then evaluate case by case. However, the EPA asks manufacturers to submit data related to certification, even if it’s incomplete.
“EPA will consider flexibilities using good engineering practices, but the nature of those flexibilities will depend on the specific data a manufacturer may submit,” according to the letter from Byron Bunker, director of compliance at the EPA’s transportation and air quality office.
Among various requests, manufacturers also may ask for changes to voluntary recall agreements due to testing delays with laboratory closures. They’re asked to provide a proposed solution to meeting the requirement.
EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said in an email Monday that the letter “does not establish, change, or have anything to do with EPA enforcement policy. It does not relax EPA requirements but instead directs manufacturers towards the most appropriate means to demonstrate compliance under the circumstances we find ourselves in.”
“It does not change the underlying regulations and does not change a manufacturer’s obligations to comply with EPA standards,” she added.
Allen Schaeffer, executive director at the Diesel Technology Forum, said the EPA’s decision was “responsible” and “thoughtful” because from the manufacturers’ perspective, the pandemic and subsequent recession paint a “bleaker picture for the coming year.”
Since mid-March, the diesel manufacturing industry has been severely disrupted by furloughs, firings, and facility shutdowns, he said. Only recently has the industry come back.
The decision to relax some requirements lowers that burden without the agency “backing off” its regulatory agenda with engine manufacturers, he said.
“The fact that they’re providing flexibilities in the wake of the worst global pandemic and economic conditions we’ve ever seen, I’m glad they did that because manufacturers are hurting,” Schaeffer said.