Proposal on pollution controls for non-road machinery is out

Combine harvester in Ireland. [Peter Mooney/Flickr]

Stakeholders stick to their guns upon reviewing the Commission’s proposal to curb pollution from agricultural and road construction machinery.

The European Commission proposed a new regulation aimed at cutting emissions of pollutants from non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) on 26 September.

NRMM includes land machinery used in the agricultural sector (for example combine-harvesters), in road construction (cranes, cement mixers) and for leisure (snowmobiles), on railroads and inland waterways.

Despite the adoption of a 1997 directive, and subsequent amendments that limited NRMM emissions, the EU executive had found that the sector continued to release increasingly high levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere.

For simplification purposes, a regulation will replace the 1997 directive, 15 annexes and eight amendments, in line with stakeholder preferences.

The scope of the law will be extended to previously unregulated NRMM such as snowmobiles and tighter Stage V pollutant limits will become mandatory for NRMM already covered by the directive.

For the most part, the new limits for carbon oxide (CO), hydrocarbon (HC), NOx and PM were aligned with US standards. During consultation, both the Commission and manufacturers in general validated that approach, since many EU concerns already export cleaner NRMM to the US.

The proposal also introduces limits on Particulate Number (PN) counting for select engine types. Specifically, this applies to the number of “solid particles with a diameter greater than 23nm”.

The objective is to put a ceiling on the release of the most dangerous ultrafine diesel particles that penetrate deep into the lungs, and are considered to be highly carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.

These stricter emissions controls are largely in line with those seen by EURACTIV in a leaked draft last spring (2014).

Green campaigners such as Transport & Environment (T&E) are reiterating the comments they already made back then, including a number of gaps in the legislation.

According to the annexes, there are no PN limits for land non-road engines with reference power above 560 Kw, inland water vessel engines with power below 300 Kw, and railroad locomotive engines. Also, no NOx limits are set for snowmobiles.

T&E’s air pollution officer François Cuenot reacted: “The bad air we all breathe in urban areas across Europe is partly due to diesel machines operating in construction sites and on locomotives and barges. Instead of filtering their toxic emissions, the Commission wants to allow more cancer-causing pollution for years to come.”

If adopted in time by Parliament and heads of state, the regulation would come into force in 2017. Deadlines for the approval of new compliant engines run from 2018 to 2020, depending on NRMM type. The transitional period between approval and commercialization runs another 12 months.

Industry groups such as the Association for European Agricultural Machinery (CEMA) and the European Materials Handling Federation (FEM) emphasize the need for longer lead-in times.

“The new transition period forces companies to redesign all these machine types within just 12 months after the introduction date. The development costs to master this challenge would be prohibitively expensive. As such, the transition scheme should be extended by another six months,” urges CEMA.

The association welcomes one of the few noteworthy changes made since the draft — the introduction of a twelve month extension to the transition period for manufacturers “with a total yearly production of fewer than 50 units” of NRMM.

According to industry, the development of compliant engines by small and medium enterprises, or by manufacturers that sell many different types of NRMM that are produced in very small volumes, could hardly have been achieved in a cost-efficient manner in just 12 months.

Talking to EURACTIV, CEMA hopes that the transition extension will be also be granted to manufacturers with yearly production of up to 100 units however.

In order to have maximum time to prepare for the new rules, these trade bodies, as well as the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE), hope for a speedy adoption process.

“Product cycles are long and product diversity is huge, putting a tremendous strain on development time. The sector calls on the European Parliament and Council to facilitate a swift reading of the proposal, in order to secure sufficient lead-time,” stressed CECE.

At this stage, the Commission told EURACTIV that no timeline is yet available for initial discussion of the regulation proposal in Parliament.

Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) covers a large variety of engine installations in machines used for purposes other than passenger or goods transport.

Diesel and spark emission engines installed in these NRMM such as excavators, bulldozers, front loaders, back loaders, compressors contribute greatly to air pollution by emitting carbon oxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matters.

In its 2013 Air Quality report, the European Environmental  Agency (EEA) warned that 90% of the EU city dwellers are exposed to one of the most damaging air pollutants at levels deemed harmful to health by the WHO. 40% of the population exposed to PM10 above limits twice as high as WHO recommends.

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