The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to cut diesel emissions drastically and has announced new regulations to cut emissions by some 90 percent over the next eight years. According to the Associated Press report, the EPA regulation requires refiners to nearly eliminate sulphur in diesel fuel used in construction, farming and other off-road activities by 2012. The required reductions would cost about $1.5 million U.S. a year over the next 27 years while saving about $16 billion U.S. to $80 billion U.S. a year in health-care costs, the EPA estimated. As a result of the cleaner fuel and the ability to build cleaner engines the amount of smog-causing chemicals and fine soot from such vehicles and machinery is expected to be reduced by more than 90 percent, the EPA says. Off-road machinery and vehicles used in construction, farming, industrial practices and at airports account for a quarter of all the smog-causing nitrogen oxide and nearly half of the fine soot from mobile sources. Fine soot and smog are blamed for increases in respiratory illnesses and thousands of premature deaths annually. Children, the elderly and people suffering from asthma are especially vulnerable. The EPA previously moved to reduce emissions from large, diesel-powered trucks. Separately, today the EPA also will propose sharp reductions in pollution from large ships and locomotives by requiring that diesel fuel used in those engines also be nearly sulphur-free. The tougher diesel requirements for off-road vehicles and machinery were proposed a year ago. Under the final rule, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt will sign today, refiners will have to cut sulphur in diesel to 500 parts per million within the next three years and to 15 parts per million by 2012. There are more than six million pieces of off-road diesel equipment in operation, from large earth movers and farm tractors to small trucks and airport baggage carts. There are an estimated 650,000 such vehicles and equipment sold annually. Sulphur-laden diesel causes air pollution control equipment to malfunction. The new low-sulphur fuel requirements will make it possible for manufacturers to build cleaner diesel engines and comply with new EPA engine standards that will begin to be phased in by 2008. “The diesel industry is firmly committed to continuous progress and a cleaner environment,” said Allen Schaeffer, the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents manufacturers of engines, fuel and emissions-control systems.