(Adds response from oil industry, public health groups)
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, March 3 The Obama administration on
Monday announced new fuel and automobile rules to cut soot, smog
and toxic emissions, which it says will reduce asthma and heart
attacks in the United States.
The so-called Tier 3 rules unveiled by the Environmental
Protection Agency have been under development since President
Barack Obama issued a memorandum instructing the agency to
develop them in 2010.
The rules, the third tier in a series of standards, will
cut gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent and should
also reduce tailpipe and evaporative emissions from cars, light
and medium-duty trucks and some heavy-duty vehicles.
Health advocates praised the move, while a petroleum
refiners' group called the compliance schedule "unrealistic" and
warned of potential supply disruptions.
The rules will be phased in under schedules that vary by
vehicle class, generally starting between model years 2017 and
2025, the EPA said.
Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to
2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory
ailments in children while adding only an average of 1 cent per
gallon to the cost of gasoline, the agency estimated.
Total health benefits in 2030 will be between $6.7 billion
and $19 billion annually, the EPA said.
The standards are an attempt to cut the sulfur content of
gasoline to 10 parts per million from 30 ppm currently. This
would boost efficiency for new emission control technologies
that automakers will use to help achieve the administration's
wider clean car standards, the agency said.
Every gasoline-powered vehicle on the road built prior to
the Tier 3 standards will run cleaner, cutting smog-forming
nitrous oxide emissions by 260,000 tons in 2018.
"By reducing these pollutants and making our air healthier,
we will bring relief to those suffering from asthma, other lung
diseases and cardiovascular disease, and to the nation as a
whole," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, former chairman of the American
Industry groups complained that the new standards were not
based on a timetable that is achievable by refiners.
Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and
Petrochemical Manufacturers, said his group had discussed its
concerns about the implementation schedule numerous times with
"EPA chose to ignore our concerns by setting an unrealistic
compliance date of Jan. 1, 2017," he said, adding that the
schedule could cause supply disruptions.
The EPA said it had considered the feedback of stakeholders,
including refiners and automakers. It said the sulfur rules
include a program to help refiners and importers meet the new
standard, and gives smaller refiners more time to comply.
QUESTIONS ABOUT COST
The EPA and the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying
group for the U.S. energy industry, sparred over the potential
health benefits and costs of the rules.
The EPA estimated that the final standards would provide up
to $13 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the
standards and raise gasoline prices by just 0.065 cents per
The standards will have an average cost of about $72 per
vehicle in 2025, the agency said.
But the API said the new rules would result in negligible
health benefits and undue costs.
"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," said Bob Greco, director of the API'S
Downstream Group. The organization estimates the rules would
increase gasoline prices by 6 cents to 9 cents per gallon.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters on a
conference call that the benefits far outweighed the costs.
"The estimate that API and others are relying on is an
outdated estimate of what they thought we would be proposing,"
Nor did they account for the compliance flexibilities the
EPA added to the rule before the final release, she added.
"People will see immediate benefits in 2017," she said, and
the estimated cost of under a penny per gallon of gasoline would
not take effect until 2025, when the rule is fully in place.
Frank O'Donnell, president of nonprofit group Clean Air
Watch, said Monday's rule was "the most significant move to
protect public health that the EPA will make this year" and that
the oil industry's fears about costs were often overblown.
"Let's remember the oil industry has cried wolf so many
times," O'Donnell said, "and it's doing it again here."
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Ros Krasny, David
Gregorio and Lisa Von Ahn)