EPA to set new rules for cleaner gasoline, lower-pollution vehicles
The Environmental Protection Agency will move ahead today with a rule requiring cleaner gasoline and lower-pollution vehicles nationwide, amounting to one of President Obama’s most significant air pollution initiatives, according to people briefed on the decision.
The proposed standards would add less than a penny a gallon to the cost of gasoline while delivering an environmental benefit akin to taking 33 million cars off the road, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made yet.
Oil industry officials, however, said the cost would be at least double the administration’s estimate, and could add up to 9 cents a gallon in some places.
The proposed standards, which had been stuck in regulatory limbo since 2011, would reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleet-wide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017.
The Obama administration’s decision to go ahead with the regulations deals a political blow to the oil and gas industry, which had mobilized dozens of lawmakers in recent days to lobby the White House for a one-year delay.
It also comes as the administration angered many environmentalists by weighing a delay in limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Unlike the sulfur limits, the administration has argued, the power plant limits could immediately hurt the struggling economy.
While gasoline sulfur itself does not pose a public health threat, it hampers the effectiveness of catalytic converters, which in turn leads to greater tailpipe emissions. These emissions – nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and fine particles – contribute to smog and soot, which can cause respiratory and heart disease.
The regulations are supported by environmental advocates, state regulators and even automobile companies, who would prefer uniform sulfur standards for fuel nationwide. But oil industry officials and their congressional allies say it will cost up to $10 billion to upgrade refineries and an additional $2.4 billion in annual operating costs.
Both public health advocates and the administration say the ultimate cost would be much lower because of provisions giving refiners flexibility in complying with the standards. The EPA estimates annual health benefits of up to $23 billion by 2030.