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Canada opts for U.S. air statutes

OTTAWA, Ont. - The Canadian government has decided to mirror U.S. law makers and is imposing tight limits on emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), in addition to calling f...

OTTAWA, Ont. – The Canadian government has decided to mirror U.S. law makers and is imposing tight limits on emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), in addition to calling for ultra-low sulphur diesel by 2007.

The Clean Air Action Plan, which was officially unveiled by Environment Minister David Anderson, lays out Canada’s regulatory road map toward protecting the health of all Canadians.

“Last spring I launched the Clean Air strategy and today I’m delivering on our promises,” says Anderson.

“That strategy included steps to reduce trans-boundary pollution (and) to ensure cleaner transportation.”

Anderson promises that all new vehicles built and sold in Canada will be under the same stringent emissions standards starting in 2004 south of the border. In this phase, NOx levels are to be cut to 50 per cent of current levels.

The following deadline, 2007, will see diesel sulphur levels drop to 15 parts per million (ppm) by mid-2006. Currently, the sulphur content of diesel sold in Canada averages 320 ppm. This is timed to coincide with a further rollback of NOx levels to 95 per cent of present levels and a 90 per cent cut in PM emissions.

“Although the recognition of U.S. emission standards was good,” John Bennett, director of atmosphere and energy with the Sierra Club of Canada, insists he was hoping for more.

“We were disappointed to see no regulations on fuel efficient vehicles,” he adds. “The only way change will occur is through regulation.”

According to Ed Crupi, acting head of Environment Canada’s vehicle regulation division, there was an action plan on climate change released some time ago. He says through this program, there will be an open dialogue between regulators and manufacturers.

“It’s not really within our part of the department,” says Crupi.

He explains the Canadian plan, for at least the time being, is to follow whatever rules are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) south of the border.

One issue, he says, still being considered by the EPA is whether crank case emissions should be limited on turbo-charged heavy-duty vehicles. He expects this will eventually become law in both countries.

“Canada will wait to see what the EPA does,” says Crupi, “and it’s certainly being considered.”

On the fuel side of the regulations, Bruce McEwen, an engineer with the department’s oil, gas and energy branch, says lowering diesel’s sulphur content marches in lock step with the emissions targets for 2007.

“The low sulphur diesel is needed to allow the use of aftertreatment technologies that will be needed to achieve the required reductions,” says McEwen. “It’s like when catalytic converters first went on cars.”

He estimates the cost of the move to 15 ppm will cost refiners between $1 billion and $2 billion in added equipment costs.

“At this point it only applies to on-road diesel,” he says. However, he expects to see sulphur levels in so-called “red diesel” to be slashed, as well.

“I envision it as a pipeline,” he says. “There will be more things coming through.”

More than $48 million of the total federal commitment will be spent on the transportation sector, including monitoring, lab testing, and possibly even a program aimed at scrapping high-emission vehicles.

All that considered, Anderson says he’s still not satisfied with Ottawa’s lack of action.

“We know that air pollution affects our health, and that children, senior citizens and those with respiratory and cardiac illness are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of dirty air,” says Anderson. “It would have been nice to see the federal government take a leadership role.” n

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