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Mayor Walsh Signs Ordinance to Reduce Diesel Emissions

June 3, 2015

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

BOSTON - Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today signed “An Ordinance to Protect Air Quality throughout the City of Boston by Reducing Fuel Emissions," to help reduce harmful emissions from diesel vehicles and idling. The ordinance requires all pre-2007 vehicles owned or leased by the City or used by its contractors to have been retrofitted with more effective emission-reduction equipment. It also simplifies and unifies the authority for the City of Boston to enforce the current state-wide anti-idling laws in a consistent way.

“This ordinance will ensure that as a City we are doing our part to be stewards of the environment," said Mayor Walsh. “I thank the Council for working together to create a healthier Boston for generations to come.”

Since 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has considerably lowered the amount of pollution permissible from new diesel vehicles and equipment. However, because of their durability, many pre-2007 diesel vehicles remain in use. For this reason, federal, state and local governments have established programs to encourage the installation of retrofit air pollution control equipment on diesel vehicles and other diesel engines.

“This ordinance marks another testament of Mayor Walsh's efforts to lead by example,” said Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. “By holding the City's fleet to a higher standard, the Mayor and City Council are making Boston a healthier place to live and work.”

Through a combination of federal and state grants and City funds, most of the City’s diesel school buses are already later model years with built-in pollution-reduction equipment or model-year 2006 or earlier retrofit with the highest level of pollution reduction equipment feasible. The rest of the City’s diesel fleet includes about 328 diesel units, not including emergency vehicles, and about 153 of them are pre-2007. For several years, the Public Works Department has been installing diesel oxidation catalysts, which reduce particulate emissions 20 percent, on diesel units as they need muffler replacements. The City is now using B20 bio-diesel in all of its trucks and equipment further reducing emissions from diesel engines.

The Ordinance, which was filed by Councilor Stephen Murphy, has been under development for several years, with active engagement from Councilor Murphy, Felix Arroyo, now the City’s Chief of Health and Human Services, and community groups such as Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and Clean Water Action.

“The asthma rate in Boston’s neighborhoods continues to climb,” said Councilor Murphy. “By further tightening air quality standards, as this ordinance does, we will make Boston’s neighborhoods healthier."

“Residents of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan are exposed to large amounts of diesel pollution, resulting in consistently higher rates of illness and premature death," said ACE Executive Director Kalila Barnett. "ACE celebrates this ordinance as a critically important step to decrease hospitalizations and improve the health of communities of color. This law ensures that all of us in Boston will benefit from breathing cleaner, healthier air. We appreciate the Walsh administration and City Council for recognizing the harmful effects of diesel emissions and prioritizing the need for clean air in Boston.”

The ordinance generally requires all pre-2007 City-owned or operated vehicles to have equipment that reduces diesel emissions by at least 20 percent by the end of 2015. There are exceptions for emergency vehicles, snow removal equipment and equipment rarely used. The Department of Public Works will complete installations on the City's 75 vehicles still requiring retrofits under the ordinance by the end of this year.

Requirements for diesel vehicles and equipment used on new City contracts over $2 million would phase in over three years.

1.    Fiscal Year 2016: Half of the pre-2007 diesel vehicles and equipment used for the contract would be required to have retrofits achieving at least 20-percent pollution reduction.

2.    Fiscal Year 2017: All pre-2007 diesel vehicles and equipment would be required to have retrofits achieving at least 20-percent pollution reduction.

3.    Fiscal Year 2018: All pre-2007 diesel vehicles and equipment not previously retrofit would be required to have retrofits achieving at least 85-percent—or best available—pollution reductions.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts limits unnecessary idling to five minutes. There are more stringent rules in school zones. These limits are contained, in various forms, in both Massachusetts general laws and in environmental regulations, and the different agencies of the City of Boston derive their authority under different provisions with different enforcement mechanisms and fines. The proposed ordinance simplifies and unifies the authority for Boston Police Department, Boston Transportation Department and the Air Pollution Control Commission to enforce the current state-wide limits in a consistent way. It does not change those limits. Fines for violation of the idling rules will be $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.