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Diesel Emissions Reduction Act extended to Commonwealth

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 6, 2011) - President Obama has signed the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2010, making the Northern Marianas eligible for federal funds to combat air pollution from diesel engines.

"This is another example of a program the Northern Marianas was left out of over the years without representation, said Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan. Now we are included. I expect much of my work for many years to come will be finding programs where the Northern Marianas were excluded and fixing that inequity," the congressman added.

Sablan has been working on getting into the diesel emissions program for almost two years. He introduced H.R. 2386, making the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) eligible for the program’s grants to reduce air pollution from diesel engines, in May 2009.

His provision was later made part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, which the House of Representatives passed in July of that year. But that bill bogged down in the Senate.

In the lame duck session of Congress last month, however, the Senate took up a separate bill reauthorizing the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act through 2016, and agreed to add the Northern Marianas and the other U.S. territories to the program.

The bill then returned to the House, winning approval by voice vote on Dec. 21.

"This legislation was also a good example of the need to be persistent and always on the lookout for legislation that can accomplish your goals, Sablan explained. Most stand-alone bills are never passed, so you have to find a vehicle for your legislative proposals and hitch a ride."

The Diesel Emission Reduction Act is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Funds are used to reduce airborne pollution from vehicles, boats, and stationary diesel engines.

Under terms of the law the President signed today, Puerto Rico with its four million people will receive a full state-share of formula funding, and the four smaller insular areas with about 400,000 people will also receive a state-share, divided equally among them.

In addition, businesses and non-profits will have access to competitive grants and loans from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce diesel pollution.

The typical annual appropriation for the Diesel Emission Reaction Act program has been US$60 million, of which base funding for the CNMI would be about US$80,000.

"Inclusion in the diesel emissions program is a significant environmental accomplishment, Sablan said. A clean environment is critical to our tourism and to the health of all of us who live in the Marianas."

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