California Ignores Scientists, Tightens Diesel Emission Rules

Published March 1, 2009

The California Air Resources Board has imposed new regulations on diesel truck emissions, substantially reducing the amount of fine particulate matter diesel trucks will be allowed to emit.

The board approved the new restrictions December 12, even though numerous eminent scientists dispute the need for the new regulations.

Health Benefits Disputed

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) claims the new regulations will save thousands of Californians’ lives and reduce health care expenditures. But scientists led by Dr. James Enstrom of the University of California at Los Angeles vigorously contested CARB’s health claims in more than 100 pages of written comments.

The year-long process of developing the new diesel regulations resulted in some very revealing public commentary, accusations of inappropriate relationships in the scientific review process, and even misconduct by CARB officials.

Enstrom and his fellow scientists submitted numerous objections to the proposed diesel rules, including:

* The authors of the CARB staff report have published no relevant peer-reviewed papers, and the lead author falsely claimed he had a Ph.D.

* The staff report’s executive summary falsely claimed the report and public comments were shown to outside reviewers.

* Five independent sources indicate there is no relationship between the regulated emissions and any deaths in California.

Enstrom and his colleagues concluded, “Important epidemiologic and toxicologic evidence does not support adverse health effects of diesel claimed by CARB and new diesel regulations should be postponed until above issues are fully and fairly evaluated.”

“In 2005 a detailed UCLA epidemiological study found no association between fine particulate matter and mortality in elderly Californians,” said Dr. Henry Miller, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

“Likewise, a voluminous 2002 EPA report did not conclude that diesel exhaust causes premature deaths,” Miller added.

Regulation Has Costs

Such bans can actually harm people’s health, Miller said.

“Regulation intended to reduce health risks imposes costs which must be weighed against the benefits,” Miller explained. “The accumulation of wealth by societies is necessary to fund medical research, build schools, support infrastructure and sanitation, and even to improve environmental amenities. It is no coincidence that richer societies have lower mortality rates and cleaner environments than poorer ones.

“Thus, to deprive communities, or individuals, of wealth is to increase their health risks,” Miller concluded.

John Dale Dunn, J.D., M.D. ([email protected])  is a civilian emergency medicine faculty member at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas.