By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia) warned that new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules increase the chances that fire trucks will break down responding to emergency calls and asked that fire trucks be exempted from the costly new regulations.
Rep. Bachus sent a letter asking for the special exception for fire and rescue vehicles to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
In the letter Rep. Bachus wrote, “Fire chiefs have told me that fire trucks have actually broken down while responding to calls because of complications caused by this equipment. When lives are at stake our firefighters and citizens count on emergency vehicles that work dependably. It doesn’t appear the EPA fully thought through the impact this regulation would have on our fire and rescue services.”
The EPA is requiring expensive new exhaust filters to limit the emissions put out by heavy vehicles. Critics say that filters can also cause the fire trucks to fail.
The Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs wrote in their own letter to the EPA, “These filters, as you know, usually burn off soot before clogging the engine, but fire trucks don’t do enough long-haul driving to get hot enough to burn the soot away. Fire apparatus are equipped with a feature called “Regeneration” which causes the fire engine to go into the burn off process. Fire trucks across the country are breaking down at record rates because of this filter system that EPA forces them to use.”
“Fire apparatus are going into ‘Regeneration’ at the scene of fires to begin the burn off process causing units to shut down, thus leaving firefighters with no water to fight a fire until replacement units can arrive.”
“The impact of these break downs are extremely costly and are rendering primary emergency response units out of service until they can be reprogrammed and returned to service. These out-of-service vehicles force emergency responders to be without apparatus or utilize reserve apparatus which may not meet current NFPA requirements.”
The fire chiefs say, “This situation could cause the loss of life to a fire fighter or to a taxpayer who is depending on the fire engine reaching them in time to save them and their property.”
The firefighters also complain that adding the expensive new filtering systems to the trucks raises the costs of new fire trucks by $25,000 to $30,000 a piece while increasing the likelihood that the truck will break down when it is most needed.
Rep. Bachus and the Fire Chiefs are asking that the EPA give a special exemption to fire and rescue vehicles similar to special exemptions they have already given the U.S. Military and to certain short haul construction trucks.
Rep. Bachus said, “The EPA should listen more closely to the people being affected before it issues costly and even counterproductive rules.”
Congressman Spencer Bachus represents Alabama’s Sixth District. The Sixth District is composed of all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, Chilton, Coosa, Bibb, and Shelby Counties. Rep. Bachus is in his tenth term in the United States Congress. Rep. Bachus is Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and is also a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.
Rep. Bachus is opposed in the March 13 Republican primary by State Senator Scott Beason, teaparty activist; Al Mickle; Probate Judge David Standridge; and Justin Barkley. The survivor of the crowded Republican Primary field will face the winner of the Democratic Party Primary in the General Election on November 6. Vying to represent the district, for the Democrats, are Birmingham attorney Bill Barnes and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Penny Huggens Bailey from Leeds. Terry Reagin from Leeds is running as an independent.