- The EPA has finalized tighter emissions standards for automobiles and gasoline.
- The new regulations call for more than a 60 percent reduction in gasoline sulfur levels.
- The oil industry argues that the new standards will raise fuel costs by six to nine cents per gallon.
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized new emissions standards for automobiles and gasoline that it says will significantly reduce pollution and save thousands of lives, while also improving vehicle efficiency.
The new regulations, called Tier 3, reduce the standards for smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent. They also establish a 70 percent more stringent standard for particulate matter emissions, virtually eliminate fuel vapor emissions and cut toxic air pollutants like benzene by up to 30 percent.
The EPA says that once these standards are in place, they will help prevent up to 2,000 pollution-related deaths annually and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children by 2030. The total savings in health-care expenses will be between $6.7 billion and $19 billion per year, according to the agency.
In addition to those rules that apply to cars and light trucks, the latest standards call for a reduction in gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent, a move intended to help vehicle emission-control equipment perform more efficiently.
In conjunction with existing federal fuel economy standards that require cars and light trucks to achieve an average of 54.5 mpg by 2025, the new EPA regulations could "result in average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle's lifetime," according to the EPA.
The vehicle standards will be implemented via a phased schedule that varies by class but will generally take place between 2017-'25. The rules applying to refineries will allow up to six years for compliance, with special considerations for smaller refineries, as well as a program that will allow companies to spread out their investment through an early credit plan and use national averaging to meet the standards.
"These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "By working with the auto industry, health groups, and other stakeholders, we're continuing to build on the Obama administration's broader clean fuels and vehicles efforts that cut carbon pollution, clean the air we breathe, and save families money at the pump."
However, the American Petroleum Institute, a national trade association, issued a statement arguing that the latest sulfur standards would place an unnecessary financial burden on U.S. refineries. Citing a study by technology consulting firm Baker & O'Brien, the API said the new rules could require a $10 billion capital investment, which could in turn trigger gas price increases of between six and nine cents per gallon.
In a statement, API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco said: "This rule's biggest impact is to increase the cost of delivering energy to Americans, making it a threat to consumers, jobs and the economy. But it will provide negligible, if any, environmental benefits. In fact, air quality would continue to improve with the existing standard and without additional costs."
Edmunds says: The EPA says the new standards will save lives and increase vehicle efficiency, but clearly the oil producers don't agree.