State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 5 officers recognized Earth Day by undertaking a region-wide clean air initiative to crack down on smoke-spewing diesel trucks at checkpoints across the North Country.
ECOs targeted trucks churning out plumes of visible exhaust - in violation of state air regulations. Continuing DEC's "Stop Smoking Initiative for Trucks and Buses," the enforcement operation was carried out in areas known for heavy truck traffic.
"North Country residents deserve a clean, safe, healthy community in which to live," Regional Director Betsy Lowe said in a press release. "Emissions from non-compliant smoking and idling trucks and buses continue to pollute the air and undermine the health of many North Country residents. This enforcement action taken on Earth Day 2011 reminds us that clean air is essential to all."
"Commercial transportation is a vital component to our economy, but we must have a proactive plan to ensure not only that trucks comply with clean air laws, but also to protect residences and drivers of other vehicles that can't escape effects of illegally smoking diesel truck and buses," said Captain Lawrence DiDonato, chief environmental conservation officer for Region 5. "This enforcement strategy does both."
On Earth Day, Region 5 ECOs, with assistance from the state police, Akwesasne Tribal police, and the state Department of Transportation, checked 44 vehicles, issuing three tickets for violations of air emission standards, one ticket for violation of waste hauler regulation, four tickets for other vehicle and traffic violations and two warnings regarding waste hauler regulation. The summary for each location is:
Plattsburgh: three vehicles checked; one waste hauler warning, and no tickets issued. Fort Covington: five vehicles checked, one air emission ticket, one waste hauler ticket, three other tickets and one waste hauler warning. Kingsbury: 36 vehicles checked,two air emission tickets, and one other ticket.
Penalties for violations of state air emission standards are $700 for the first offense and $1,300 for subsequent offenses. Operators that repair faulty vehicles can have the fines reduced.
The "Stop Smoking Initiative for Trucks" was based on a successful pilot program launched more than two years ago. The Earth Day 2011 operations marked the first time operations were carried out region-wide in the North Country on the same day.
Environmental conservation police will be working with community groups and local governments to develop an outreach program to educate the trucking industry and neighborhood groups about the laws and serious consequences of polluting trucks. A key feature of the program will involve empowering communities to identify idling hot spots.
As part of Region 5's commemoration of Earth Day, ECOs and DEC staff continue to demonstrate a clear commitment to clean air, clean water, healthy communities.