But contractors' group  says it is too little for  recession-hit industry

CALIFORNIA – The California Air Resources Board said it plans to tentatively delay enforcement of diesel emissions standards on large fleets of off-road construction equipment that were supposed to start curtailing emissions in March.

Board Executive Officer James Goldstene on Feb. 11 said the board "will take no enforcement action regarding compliance" with the regulation's emission standards or requirements before authorization to do so is granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He also scheduled a hearing before him in Sacramento on March 11 to hear more from contractors with off-road equipment how much the economic recession is affecting their businesses. That testimony would be presented at an already-scheduled board hearing in April on needed revisions to the regulation.

Mr. Goldstene was responding to a Jan. 11 petition from the trade group Associated General Contractors of America for a two-year moratorium on enforcement of the regulation that said a legislative delay of some of the requirements, which took effect in early December, don't provide enough relief for an industry not expected to recover for two more years.

"The petition argues that the regulation must be immediately delayed by two years to prevent immediate and irreparable harm to fleets, in large part because the fleets have been adversely impacted by the current severe recession," Mr. Goldstene wrote in his seven-page response.

The legislative amendments in Assembly Bill 8 2X, which the board discussed and adopted Dec. 11, averted the need for emergency action, he added.

"ARB will continue to evaluate the impact of the recession on emissions from all sources and make adjustments to our regulations as needed," Mr. Goldstene said in a statement.  "However, the health of all Californians requires that all industries continue to use the cleanest, most efficient equipment possible."

Associated General Contractors' general counsel called the board's delayed enforcement "as legally meaningless as it is economically damaging."

"By committing to begin enforcement as soon as the federal government allows, the board is only acknowledging legal reality, not providing relief," Mike Kennedy said.

Provisions of AB 8 2X include:

* A two-year delay in enforcement, except for the largest fleets that were able to sustain revenues as they were before the recession began in late 2007.

* Fleets that reduced total horsepower through retirement of vehicles between March 2006 and March 2010 would get compliance credit.

* Fleets idled between January 2007 and March 2010 would get compliance credit.

* Relief from the compliance alternative of best available control technology for emissions