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California dozer owners say emissions rules will derail stimulus

Washington Post this morning reports that contractors in the Golden State would just as soon keep their old tractors and not be forced to spend big bucks upgrading them to suit California’s environmental rules.

About $30 billion of Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan is being set aside for highways and bridges. Some of that money would be squandered unless the new president blocks a rule that might keep some earthmovers from doing their economy-lifting work, a group of contractors says.

The Associated General Contractors of America wants Obama to put up a federal barrier to a California clean-air rule that regulates off-road diesel engines already in use. It will require the replacement or retrofitting of the engines of earthmoving equipment. The state has an estimated 180,000 loaders, graders, excavators and other heavy equipment.

“What is the point of stimulus money if it’s used to replace equipment instead of building?” asked Mike Kennedy, general counsel of the Arlington-based group. The regulators “assumed costs could be passed along, but economic circumstances have changed so dramatically that the rule has to be reopened.”

I think about 100,000 Caterpillar employees could answer that question pretty readily.

My guess is the contractors win out on this one, though: I mean, ordering an immediate upgrade on 180,000 diesel engines is a pretty steep request.

The challenge being, the long-run benefits of cleaner-burning engines far outweigh the short-run economic costs. You’ll notice Cat isn’t bewailing clean-rules; it’s building cleaner engines.

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Tom Mangan posted at 11:42 am January 21st, 2009 |

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