Release 04-27      

November 9, 2004


Jerry Martin
Gennet Paauwe
(916) 322-2990
New Program to Encourage Electrically Powered Irrigation Pumps

-- The California Air Resources Board (ARB) applauds the new program proposed by the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association (AECA), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) encouraging Central Valley farmers to convert diesel-powered water irrigation pumps to electric.

"Converting diesel irrigation pumps to electricity, a near-zero emissions source, is the best available control method for that equipment, and would result in significant short term improvements to air quality," said ARB's Executive Officer, Catherine Witherspoon.

PG&E and SCE today submitted a joint application to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seeking to offer farmers incentives through special rates to convert diesel irrigation pumps to electricity. Diesel-fueled agriculture pumps are a significant source of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants have been associated with lung cancer, premature death, cardiovascular disease, increased incidences of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diminished crop yields. The PUC is expected to rule on the joint application early next year

The new program proposes to offer an "incentive" rate for farmers who voluntarily convert diesel-engine-powered agricultural pumps to electric. In addition to the incentive rate, eligible customers would be provided with an enhanced "line extension" or hook-up allowance, that is based on the air quality benefits achieved, designed to help defray the costs of the initial conversion to electricity. Program participants would be required to destroy their older diesel engines, and newer "cleaner" diesel engines would be turned over to the local air district for reuse or proper disposal.

The ARB estimates there are 5,700 diesel irrigation engines operating in the Central Valley. If these engines were replaced with electric motors, an estimated 11,600 tons of NOx and estimated 860 tons of PM would be eliminated each year. This would be equivalent to eliminating nearly half the yearly NOx and one quarter of the yearly PM created by all California power plants. Reducing diesel PM, which accounts for 70 percent of our airborne cancer risk in California, is a high priority for ARB.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.