As the one-year anniversary approaches of Metro Vancouver's regulation to control diesel emissions, response has been tentative.
On Jan. 1, 2012, the Non-Road Diesel Engine Emission Regulation took effect, enforceable in 24 jurisdictions that form Metro Vancouver, and targeted at Tier 0 engines - pre-2000 engines without emission controls, 25 hp and up – that don’t operate on roads.
Metro Vancouver anticipated it would collect about $1 million in fees during the inaugural year. In early December, $586,000 had been paid, said Ray Robb, Metro Vancouver’s regulation and enforcement manager.
“We expected more, but one-third of Tier 1 engines may have been replaced,” he said.
In addition, interprovincial companies have the ability to move newer, fee-exempt equipment to Vancouver.
These larger companies can then ship older, fee-bearing pieces to locations where there is no such regulation, Robb added.
In 2012, fees for Tier 0 equipment was $4 per hp.
In 2013 it rises to $6 per hp, $8 in 2014, $10 in 2015, $14 in 2016 and $20 for 2017 and later.
By mid-December, 1,300 Tier 0 engines had been registered out of an estimated 3,000 pieces of non-road equipment in Metro Vancouver.
However the 3,000 pieces include Tier 1 engines, newer than Tier 0, with improved air and fuel systems.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Tier 1 pieces will fall under the phased-in regulation.
Newer engines, categorized as Tier 2, 3 or 4, will still be exempt.
Robb admitted that the regulation is hitting smaller operators with less equipment more than mid-to-large companies that can juggle operations or have options regarding capital expenditures.
“Arguably, the pain felt by owners/operators is noticeable, but not catastrophic,” he said.
“The big guys can manage. They can sell old equipment to the smaller guys.”
In 2013, a small operator with two pieces of Tier 0 equipment, each at 300 hp, will face a $3,600 charge.
They may be forced to work outside of Metro Vancouver, Robb admitted.
But, he added that one piece of Tier 0 equipment can be licensed for a whole year for the same cost of renting a new piece of equipment for one day.
One of three owners of Surrey-based Southwest Contracting, said his 40-year-old company felt the pain in 2012.
“This came too fast and it’s too expensive,” said Kevin Ronning, who’s been with Southwest for 27 years.
In 2012, Southwest paid almost $20,000 in fees so that it could operate its Tier 0 equipment.
The problem is that the diesel engines can operate for about 15,000 hours.
Equipment bought in the late 1990s still have several years of service life left.
The decision becomes whether to upgrade at considerable cost ($60,000 per air compressor engine), buy new ($80,000) or sell, he said.
Southwest has advertised non-compliant equipment, which will likely be bought by someone outside Metro Vancouver.
“This isn’t solving things. We’re displacing the problem at considerable expense,” he said, adding that added costs get passed on to clients.
Jack Davidson, B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association president, hasn’t been swamped with complaints about the regulation.
“I haven’t heard from my guys,” he said.
He agreed the regulation will make it more difficult for smaller operators with older equipment, but he added that companies can get permits for the day, month or year.
Ronning said that Metro Vancouver inspectors have been “quite diligent” in their inspections.
However, as of December, Metro Vancouver had not issued any tickets for non-compliance.
Some companies have tried to resist the new rules, including small and large contractors, but after several visits from inspectors, most eventually caved in and paid the fees, Robb said.
While there wasn’t a grace period, companies were given “some rope,” Robb noted.
In 2013, he expects tickets, which can reach $1,000, will be issued.
Fines can hit $200,000.
The impetus for the regulation came in 2006 when Robb attended an air quality workshop.
He learned that particulates in diesel emissions are responsible for two-thirds of all cancers in the Lower Mainland, as well as causing various respiratory illnesses.
Non-road engines cause 41 per cent of the diesel particulate emissions in Metro Vancouver.
In 2008, consultations began. In early 2010, the regulation was passed and was to take effect in 2011, but strong objections delayed the implementation until 2012.
Exceptions to the regulation include engines less than 25 hp, machines used in agricultural operations on farms, personal recreational machines and emergency generators.
Registration and more information about the program is available on the Metro Vancouver website.