Bus project aims to cut emissions

E. Baltimore fleet to use ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel

January 10, 2004|By Jessica Valdez | Jessica Valdez,SUN STAFF

A $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will help buy ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel for 165 transit buses in East Baltimore, officials said yesterday.

Wedged between several disassembled MTA buses in a Highlandtown bus barn, representatives from several state, national and local agencies said the one-year project is intended to reduce diesel exhaust emissions, which exacerbate the city's smog and can cause respiratory and health problems.

The EPA money given to the Maryland Department of the Environment will subsidize the difference in cost between regular diesel and the ultra-low-sulfur fuel, which is 8 cents to 12 cents more a gallon, said Robert L. Smith, administrator for the Maryland Transit Administration. The project targets the East Baltimore bus fleet, which is based in a residential community bordered by industrial zones and interstates 895 and 95.

"This is an area where there are thousands of buses and trucks going along the interstate everyday," said Jeff Welsh, an MTA spokesman.

The bus system uses nearly 1.7 million gallons of diesel a year, adding to the pollutants in East Baltimore.

"Diesel exhaust is not just a nuisance; it threatens public health," said Donald S. Welsh, administrator for the EPA's Mid-Atlantic region.

The use of cleaner-burning fuel will reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 76 percent, particulate emissions by 23 percent and carbon monoxide emissions by 29 percent, said Kendl P. Philbrick, acting secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Hydrocarbons are responsible for Baltimore's smog.

"This will not be a total solution, but it will be a good start for us," Philbrick said.

By 2006, the city will have to switch all heavy-duty engines to low-sulfur diesel fuel meet federal regulations, Smith said.

The city will monitor pollutant reduction by using opacity meters, which gauge the amount of light blocked by particles, to measure the thickness of the exhaust smoke.

Officials hope the reduction will have some effect on smog, although it won't be big enough to register a change in the monitored levels.

"It's a step in the right direction," Jeff Welsh said, "but we have a lot of work to do to solve some of these emissions problems."

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