Constructing a Healthier Future

Guest Blog | November 1, 2011 | Energy Policy

Are you looking for a way to take action to help improve air quality and fight climate change? Well, here’s your chance!

Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Hanna (NY) and Edwards (MD) introduced The Clean Construction Act of 2011. This bi-partisan legislation establishes procedures to advance the use of cleaner construction equipment on federally funded highway and public transportation construction projects, specifically by reimbursing companies for acquiring and installing emission control technologies to complete the projects. The Diesel Clean-Up Campaign, of which SACE is a member, and the Associated General Contractors of America are both supporting this effort.

Photo courtesy of Clean Water Action
Photo courtesy of Clean Water Action

Diesel engines spew a toxic mix of particulate matter and gases that contribute to a range of negative health impacts including cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks and an estimated 21,000 premature deaths each year in the United States. Heavy construction equipment operators face an increased risk of lung disease and other impacts from their constant exposure to diesel exhaust. Black carbon in diesel exhaust is also a significant global warming driver that is approximately 2,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Clean construction policies such as the Clean Construction Act of 2011 can help ensure that public works projects in areas with poor air quality use clean diesel technologies. Federally funded transportation projects should minimize any adverse impact on a community’s air quality. Linking our nation’s diesel construction fleet to federal transportation projects will provide an opportunity to incorporate real air quality performance measures into project delivery. This will make a huge improvement in the health of our communities, and is a smart way to reduce the negative impacts of diesel pollution, create jobs, and invest in a clean air future for the construction industry.

Technologies such as diesel particulate filters (DPFs) are readily available and cost-effective, and can reduce emissions up to 90% from legacy diesel engines. Manufacturing these technologies is also an important contributor to the U.S. economy. Keybridge Associates estimates that every $1B investment in clean diesel technology would yield 19,000 jobs. And, estimates show that for every dollar spent to reduce particulate matter pollution from diesel engines, affected citizens would avoid $12 in health damages.

Emissions high WITHOUT retrofit

State and local policymakers have been working on this issue for over a decade. The solutions are proven. After the tragedy of 9/11, modern pollution control equipment was required on construction equipment used in the cleanup of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Next door in New Jersey, Governor Christie recently signed an executive order to implement a clean construction pilot program using state funds. Similarly, clean construction has been picked up by cities such as Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago, IL; and Providence, RI, which all passed local ordinances that require clean construction for local projects.

Emissions low WITH retrofit

In the Southeast, most diesel clean up efforts completed over the past 5 years have been funded by the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) and the Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality Improvement program. These two programs have been critical vehicles for clean up efforts, but even with their success, much more is needed to bring our cities and counties into attainment of federal health standards for fine particles and protect the citizens of our region.

The time is NOW – we have an opportunity to realize the benefits of years of planning and thinking about a smart solution that can really work.

We need your help.

As the CCA is being considered, Congress is also currently preparing a new Transportation Bill.  A clean construction policy, like the Clean Construction Act of 2011, would ensure that public projects funded by the new Transportation Bill do not degrade air quality.  Please ask Congress to stand up for clean air and public health by including a clean construction policy, like the Clean Construction Act of 2011, in the new Transportation Bill.  It can ensure that public projects funded as part of the new bill do not degrade air quality, but improve our quality of life.

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