Some may breathe easier because of engine replacement

Some Kauaians, especially those working for Niu Construction, may be breathing a bit easier after an older, diesel-powered piece of construction equipment is refitted to burn cleaner and with less pollution.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leaders have awarded a $135,000 federal grant to officials with the American Lung Association of Hawaii as part of a nationwide project to renovate old, diesel-driven vehicles with newer, cleaner engines, to lessen air pollution on Kaua’i and O’ahu.

Leaders with the Grace Pacific Corporation, who operate a quarry at Makakilo on O’ahu and the Niu Construction facility in Hanama’ulu, will donate another $592,000 to have new, cleaner-running diesel engines installed in vehicles company employees operate on O’ahu and Kaua’i.

An off-road construction vehicle Grace Pacific Corporation leaders operate at the Niu Construction facility in Hanama’ulu will be refitted, according to Dean Higuchi, a spokesman with the EPA office in Honolulu.

The project is part of the National Clean Diesel Campaign, an ambitious effort by government leaders to lessen emissions from millions of diesel engines by 2014.

“This ($135,000 grant from EPA leaders and the $592,000 from Grace Pacific officials) is the first step to getting voluntary help from folks (on Kaua’i and elsewhere in the state) who use diesel engines in Hawai’i, to retrofit to newer and cleaner engines,” said Higuchi.

The project may encourage leaders of more companies on Kaua’i and elsewhere in Hawai’i to form partnerships with government officials to upgrade their diesel equipment to help keep Hawai’i’s air clean, Higuchi said.

In announcing the awarding of the $135,000 grant at Grace Pacific’s Makakilo quarry last week, U.S. EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri said the project will provide significant health benefits for construction workers and residents who come in a contact with diesel-driven construction vehicles with old diesel engines.

“Exposure to diesel exhaust from older engines poses significant localized health risks, such as increased chances of heart and lung disease, and cancer,” Nastri said.

“This project will protect the health of construction workers and the community, and is a very good example of what can be accomplished through a public-nonprofit-private-sector partnership.”

To be retrofitted are the engines of two off-highway trucks and one wheeled loader, while two generators will get new engines that meet EPA officials’ most advanced emissions standards, Higuchi said.

The equipment is owned by owners of Grace Pacific on O’ahu and Kaua’i, and represents 28 percent of the company’s off-highway trucks, 6 percent of the wheeled loaders, and 16 percent of the generators.

The project is projected to reduce diesel-fuel use by an average of 12 percent, and reduce air emissions by approximately 50 percent for the five pieces of equipment, Higuchi said.

The project is one of 10 grants totaling more than $1 million to support clean-diesel projects across the country, he said.

The value of the grants will nearly triple to $3 million, as industry partners contribute almost $2 for every $1 of federal funds, he said.

The grant-project leaders focused on reducing emissions from non-road vehicles and equipment used in construction and port-related activities.

The $135,000 grant represents the kick-off event for Hawai’i to join the West Coast Collaborative, the first pilot project of the federally-supported National Clean Diesel Campaign, Higuchi said.

The campaign consists of regulatory and voluntary efforts to reduce emissions from new diesel engines and the 11 million existing diesel engines by 2014.

The campaign has two parts: one is to develop and implement the most stringent emissions standards for new engines and fuel, and the second is to promote voluntary emissions reductions of an existing fleet through retrofits, cleaner fuels, engine replacement, reduced idling, and other pollution-cutting measures.

The West Coast Collaborative represents a partnership among leaders from federal, state, and local government, the private sector, and environmental groups in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Hawai’i, Canada and Mexico, that are committed to reducing diesel emissions along the West Coast.

West Coast leaders seek to leverage federal funds to reduce emissions from the most polluting diesel sources in the most affected communities, and to significantly improve air quality and public health, Higuchi said.

For more information, please visit www.westcoastcollaborative.org.

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