WASHINGTON - Automakers and environmental groups claimed victory last week when the EPA issued final rules to sharply cut pollution from diesel engines.
Environmental groups said the rules, aimed primarily at cleaning the exhaust from large trucks and buses beginning in 2007, were one of the biggest steps taken to protect public health from dirty air.
The automakers hailed provisions that would all but eliminate sulfur from diesel fuel. They said low-sulfur fuel is necessary if diesel engines are going to be used in future cars and light trucks. Sulfur contaminates emissions control equipment, such as catalytic converters.
Environmentalists and manufacturers were part of an uneasy coalition that fought attempts to relax the low-sulfur provisions, led by the petroleum industry and the administration's own Energy Department.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers even commissioned a study to refute oil industry claims that the EPA plan would raise diesel prices by 15 cents to 50 cents a gallon and crimp supplies.
The EPA rules say oil companies must reduce sulfur content to 15 parts per million in 80 percent of the country in 2006. The Energy Department wanted a more gradual phase-in. The American Petroleum Institute recommended 50 ppm. The current average is about 500 ppm.
After the low-sulfur fuel is available, truck and bus makers have four years to clean up exhaust, starting in 2007.
The Clinton administration said needed pollution-control equipment would add $1,200 to $1,900 to the cost of a large truck or bus.