Legislation updating the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act was recently passed in the U.S. Senate.

The bipartisan measure would fund programs through fiscal 2029 that promote health benefits through air quality improvements.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, is the bill’s lead sponsor. “For almost two decades, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act has improved our air quality, protected public health and created good-paying domestic manufacturing jobs,” Carper said May 9, the day after the measure’s passage in the chamber.

“Our bipartisan legislation would reauthorize this common-sense clean air program, which has proven to be one of our nation’s most cost-effective tools for reducing dirty diesel emissions since its implementation in 2005. This policy is a win-win-win for clean air, our health and our economy,” Carper added.

“By passing legislation to reauthorize the DERA program, the Senate demonstrated how we can successfully address emissions using policy incentives instead of punishing regulations,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the committee’s ranking member. “As an original sponsor of the last reauthorization of the DERA program, I am proud the Senate advanced this common-sense effort, which will help improve air quality and grow our economy at the same time.”

The DERA program, operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is backed via federal grants. The legislation would update DERA at the authorization level of $100 million annually. The funding is meant to facilitate the voluntary replacement or installation of retrofits on existing heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines. “The program has upgraded tens of thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment, and DERA funds have been awarded to projects in every state in the country, in addition to the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa,” per background the committee provided.

A vote to clear the bill for the president’s desk has yet to be scheduled in the U.S. House of Representatives. DERA took shape after Carper joined former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in co-authoring the program as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Groups touting the bill’s Senate passage include American Trucking Associations. “Through the trucking industry’s sustained commitment to environmental responsibility and the government’s constructive partnership, heavy-duty truck tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter have sharply declined by 99% over the past several decades. The DERA program has been pivotal to this success, incentivizing motor carriers to embrace innovation and adopt the newest, cleanest equipment available,” ATA President Chris Spear said May 13. “We are grateful that the Senate voted unanimously to continue this tried-and-true model of working collaboratively with our industry to strengthen the supply chain, improve air quality and bolster domestic manufacturing jobs, and we are particularly appreciative of U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Shelley Moore Capito’s leadership in getting this bill across the finish line.”

EPA officials outlined on the agency’s website health benefits associated with DERA: “Exposure to diesel exhaust can lead to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease, especially in children and the elderly. These conditions can result in increased numbers of emergency room visits, hospital admissions, absences from work and school, and premature deaths.”