WASHINGTON - The EPA wants the biggest sport-utilities and passenger vans to be covered by the tougher emissions rules being considered for cars and light trucks.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner said last week that extending the proposed rules, called Tier 2, to cover trucks over 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight would close 'possible loopholes for the new, super-large SUVs now being built.'
She referred to Ford Excursions and the heaviest Chevrolet and GMC Suburbans, plus the largest Ford Econoline, Chevrolet Express and Dodge Ram passenger vans.
The expansion of Tier 2, however, would not cover the largest pickups, such as the Ford F-250 and F-350, or big cargo vans.
Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the environmental group Clean Air Trust, said such an exception for work vehicles is reasonable.
But General Motors spokesman Bill Noack contended some large sport-utilities and passenger vans that are to be tightly regulated also are used as work trucks. Nevertheless, the company will work with the EPA for 'a balanced regulation,' he said.
The EPA wants to adopt final Tier 2 rules by year end. They are designed to cut emissions of smog-causing pollutants such as nitrogen oxides by up to 95 percent from current levels. The rules would be phased in during the 2004-09 model years.
The agency last week also announced plans for tougher emissions rules for medium- and heavy-duty trucks - in two stages, beginning in 2004 and in 2007 - and to seek sharp reductions in sulfur in diesel fuel, similar to cuts already proposed for gasoline.
Truck and engine companies previously agreed to outlines of new rules for 2004, but the new details mean they will be more challenging than expected, said Warren Slodowske, manager of the environmental staff at Navistar International Trans-portation Corp.
He also confirmed that the 2007 rules would require development for diesels of new control equipment, comparable to catalytic converters.
Said Slodowske: 'Folks that sell after-treatment devices are excited about the possibility.'