The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added a new word to the wider public lexicon today when it proposed new emission and fuel standards for cars and gasoline: Tier 3. This new regulation is "sensible" and will "significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive," the EPA says. Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees.

The rules (885-page PDF here) would require that gasoline have a lower sulfur content – dropping from 30 parts per million today to 10 parts per million by 2017 – which will make it easier for cars to meet the new reduced tailpipe and evaporative emissions requirements. If the proposed rules take effect, they "will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children," the EPA says. The European Respiratory Journal recently published a study that found that vehicle emissions can cause asthma in children.

Some numbers from the proposed rules: Smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides will need to be reduced by 80 percent. Toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, will need to be cut by up to 40 percent. A particulate matter standard will need to be 70 percent tighter. Fuel vapor emissions will need to drop to "near zero." The rules would go into effect in 2017 and are basically taking rules from the California Air Resources Board and making them valid nationwide.

The EPA says it had "extensive" input from "auto manufactures, refiners, and states," which implies there is broad agreement on the rules. But Republican politicians and members of the gas and oil industy say that gas prices will rise, up to nine cents a gallon, if the EPA gets its way. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, said in a statement that, "The Obama administration cannot be more out of touch" with the economic burden this will place on drivers. The EPA, instead, estimates it'll cost less than a penny a gallon, but it will add an average cost of $130 per vehicle to new cars in 2025.

The Natural Resources Defense Council fought back against the criticism. Luke Tonachel, NRDC senior vehicles analyst, said in a statement that the new standards will save lives at a minimal cost, and that, "Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren't worth it. But that's because they care about profits above all else."
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EPA Will Propose Achievable Cleaner Fuels and Cars Standard, Slashing Air Pollution and Providing Extensive Health Benefits

March 29, 2013

WASHINGTON – Based on extensive input from auto manufactures, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive. These cleaner fuels and cars standards are an important component of the administration's national program for clean cars and trucks, which also include historic fuel efficiency standards that are saving new vehicle owners at the gas pump today. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.

Following a proven systems approach that addresses vehicles and fuels as an integrated system, today's proposal will enable the greatest pollution reductions at the lowest cost. The proposal will slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, including reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard, and reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero. The proposal will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.

The proposal supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

"The Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to reinvigorate the auto industry and ensure that the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, more efficient and saving drivers money at the pump and these common-sense cleaner fuels and cars standards are another example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way," said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. "Today's proposed standards – which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states.

By 2030, EPA estimates that the proposed cleaner fuels and cars program will annually prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution. Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually. The program would also reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day.

Throughout the development of the proposal, EPA met with representatives from the automotive and oil and gas industry as well as environmental, consumer advocacy and public health organizations. Based on initial feedback from these groups and a thorough rulemaking process, EPA's proposal is estimated to provide up to seven dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards. The proposed sulfur standards will cost refineries less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The proposed vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025. The proposal also includes flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

The proposed standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. This means that vehicles built prior to the proposed standards will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur gas, providing significant and immediate benefits by reducing emissions from every gas-powered vehicle on the road.

The proposed standards will work together with California's clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The proposal is designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA's national program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017. Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty and streamlining compliance.

Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be available for public comment and EPA will hold public hearings to receive further public input.

Information on EPA's notice of proposed rulemaking: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/tier3.htm


Lower Tailpipe Emissions Will Lead to Cleaner Air, More Jobs
Wide Support for Reductions of Smog-Forming Exhaust


WASHINGTON (March 29, 2013) – The Obama administration's proposed plan for reducing harmful tailpipe emissions from passenger vehicles is a huge step forward toward cleaning our country's air and creating jobs, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said today. The proposal enjoys support from a broad range of industry and advocacy groups while the oil industry alone fights to block these important steps to protect public health.

The so-called Tier 3 standards aim to reduce the existing sulfur in gasoline while setting tailpipe standards to limit smog-forming emissions from new passenger vehicles. The proposal will cut on-road mobile source emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds from vehicles.

"The path from a car's tailpipe to our lungs is surprisingly short, and more than 1 in 3 Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal limit," said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles program. "Today's proposal is a common-sense step that will protect our health while growing our economy."

The new program is expected to reduce the average sulfur concentration of gasoline from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm -- which is consistent with the global trend to reduce sulfur in gasoline. By reducing the sulfur content of the gasoline we pump into vehicles on the road today, the pollution-reduction and public health benefits of Tier 3 will be immediate. In 2017, these proposed standards will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from existing vehicles by 260,000 tons, the equivalent to taking 33 million of today's cars off our nation's roads, according to a study by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

The standards will help reduce incidents of asthma cases, respiratory problems, and premature death caused by these harmful, smog-forming emissions, improving public health and cutting costs. A study by Navigant Economics found that these health benefits will have an estimated value of $5 to $6 billion annually by 2020, and $10 to $11 billion annually by 2030.

This step comes just months after the administration finalized standards that will nearly double the fuel economy of and cut global warming pollution in half for new cars and light trucks.

"This is a stellar encore to the fuel efficiency main act," Robinson said. "Together, these standards represent the largest step in our nation's history toward reducing harmful emissions from the vehicles we drive every day."

The proposed standards will also mean more American jobs. The Navigant study estimated that implementing the Tier 3 program will create almost 5,300 permanent jobs in the operation and maintenance of new refining equipment, as well as more than 24,000 new jobs over a three year period for equipment installation at U.S. refineries.

Nevertheless, oil companies and their allies in Congress have worked hard to stall the proposal of these standards, and they continue to rely on misleading and discredited data that overestimates the standards' costs. In fact, complying with these standards would cost U.S. refiners around a penny per gasoline, according to the same Navigant Economics study, adding that the cost will not necessarily be passed on to the consumer.

The oil industry stands alone in opposition to the new rules, while a plethora of health, consumer, labor, manufacturer, scientific and environmental groups support these standards.

"The chorus of support for these new standards is as widespread as it is unprecedented," said Robinson. "Obviously, oil companies work for their own best interests, but when it comes to Tier 3, it's only a solo act."


New Gasoline and Auto Pollution Standards Will Save Lives, Money and Clear Our Air
NRDC: "Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren't worth it."


WASHINGTON (March 29, 2013) – The Environmental Protection Agency's new standards for gas and vehicle emissions that will be announced today will dramatically reduce hazardous air pollution such as smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, made the following comment:

"These common-sense standards will save lives, save money and clean up our air - all at a minimal cost.

"Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren't worth it. But that's because they care about profits above all else."

The impact of the proposed standards on gasoline prices is expected to be less than a penny per gallon, according to the EPA. In return, Americans will save over $10 billion per year in health-related costs by 2030.
According to a poll by the American Lung Association, Americans support improved standards for gasoline and tailpipe emissions from new vehicles by a 2-to-1 margin (62 percent to 32 percent).

Automakers also support these standards. But Big Oil companies are fighting them so they can continue to avoid paying for the costs of their pollution – even as they take home record profits and $8 billion in tax breaks and subsidies at the public's expense.

The Tier 3 standards require gasoline sulfur be reduced from 30 ppm to 10 ppm. The lower-sulfur gasoline will cut pollution from existing vehicles and enable new vehicles to meet tighter tailpipe standards. Currently, gasoline and new cars meet Tier 2 standards that were implemented from 2000 to 2007 and resulted in a nearly 10-fold reduction in sulfur and cut tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxides by roughly 80 percent.

The EPA will now open the standards to public comment before adopting a final rule later this year.

For more details, please see Luke's blog here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ltonachel/