A coalition of lobbying groups sent President Donald Trump a letter urging him to take a $700 million federal program that subsidizes replacing diesel engines off the budget chopping block.
The White House’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) program, which funds the replacement or upgrading of diesel engines in trucks, buses and other vehicles.
DERA is one of the programs the White House asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which runs the program, be “zeroed out” as part of about $2 billion in cuts to the agency’s budget.
The White House listed dozens of programs for EPA to eliminate, including climate programs, the Clean Power Plan implementation and Energy Star grants. The budget outline also recommends a 30 percent cut to state grants.
Transportation lobbyists want to protect DERA to keep subsidies for replacing or retrofitting diesel engines. EPA has spent about $700 million on DERA over the past decade.
They argue the “program effectively cleans our air and supports domestic employment in innovative industries while also helping businesses invest in new and efficient technologies,” according to the letter signed by 20 organizations, including the American Trucking Associations, Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association and Emissions Control Technology Association.
EPA says DERA has retrofitted 73,000 vehicles and equipment, saving 450 million gallons of fuel and generating about $12.6 billion in health benefits from reduced air pollution.
“Without a program like DERA, these older vehicles will stay on the road until they wear out, increasing emissions that could be significantly reduced if replaced with newer technology,” industry groups wrote to Trump.
There’s just one problem. The EPA inspector general’s office found numerous problems with the DERA program.
In 2015, the IG reviewed $26 million worth of grants issued between 2012 and 2014. The IG questioned how 90 percent of that money was spent. That was just the beginning.
The IG noted EPA could not prove DERA achieved “the desired emissions reductions. As a result, the EPA could overestimate emissions reductions for grant activities.”
On IG report found a Tennessee Department of Transportation lied about its diesel program’s results and could not prove it had “achieve its projected emissions reductions and, ultimately, expected environmental and human health benefits.”
The IG found “EPA funds were used to replace vehicles that would have been replaced anyway due to normal attrition.”
In fact, an EPA spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Ethan Barton in 2015 the agency could not say if the project was having any meaningful impact on air quality.
“We cannot definitively establish cause and effect on one project’s impact on a city’s air quality,” the spokesman said.
But that’s not what EPA tells the public. An EPA report on DERA from March 2016 claimed the program was making a “visible difference in communities.”