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L.A. Puts Alternative Fuels on Fast Track

L.A. Puts Alternative Fuels on Fast Track

The Los Angeles metropolitan area became the first region in the nation to require that new transit buses and garbage trucks be powered only by lower-polluting alternative fuels, a move that could lead to similar mandates in other smoggy cities.

According to rules adopted unanimously by the South Coast Air Quality Management District last Friday, every new transit bus and trash collector or hauler bought by public agencies in the region will have to run on nonpetroleum-based fuels, such as natural gas, methanol, electricity or fuel cells, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The mandate emerges from the AQMD's conclusion last year that diesel emissions are responsible for most of the cancer risk in the region, which includes Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

According to the report, the region now has 4,900 transit buses and 6,000 garbage trucks powered by diesel fuel.

The measure takes effect immediately for operators of large public fleets in the district. Smaller agencies -- with 15 or fewer vehicles -- have another year before replacements must be powered by alternative fuels.

Natural-gas-powered garbage trucks and buses cost an average of $40,000 more than comparable diesel models.

The action was a victory for environmentalists and public health advocates who have been waging a broad attack on public and commercial fleets of soot-spewing vehicles -- from school buses to tractor-trailer rigs -- that until recently had been lightly regulated compared to passenger vehicles and industries.

The AQMD's decision is extraordinary in that it effectively discriminates against diesel engines. District experts say that while diesel models are getting cleaner, they still produce more smog-forming emissions of nitrogen oxides and hazardous particle pollutants than alternative-fuel models.