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EPA Targets Smog with Updated Vehicle Standards

By Mike Hower

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed last Friday a set of new standards to reduce smog-causing sulfur in gasoline and tighten emissions regulations on cars and trucks beginning in 2017 that would increase gas prices by less than a penny per gallon and add $130 to the cost of a vehicle in 2025.

The proposal slashes a range of harmful pollutants such as smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent. It also establishes a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and decreases fuel vapor emissions to near zero. Toxic air pollutants such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene will be decrease by up to 40 percent.

The EPA estimates the proposal’s total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually and will help avoid nearly 2,400 premature deaths and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children. The rules will also benefit the more than 50 million Americans living, working or going to school near public roads.

During Friday’s announcement, EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said the proposed standards “will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable” and “are the next step in our work to protect public health.”

To develop the proposal, the EPA consulted with representatives from the automotive and oil and gas industry, as well as environmental, consumer advocacy and public health organizations. Based on the initial feedback, the EPA says the standards could provide up to seven dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to enact them.

If implemented, the EPA claims the standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent, to 10 parts per million. Decreasing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently, meaning even cars and trucks built before 2017 will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur fuel.

The proposed mandate comes as part of the Obama Administration’s national program for clean cars and trucks, which also includes unprecedented fuel efficiency standards. The proposal will work alongside California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a cohesive national vehicle emissions program that would enable automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states.

“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,” Perciasepe said.

The scheme also supports efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and eases their ability to attain national air quality standards to protect public health, while also maintaining flexibility for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.

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

The proposal came on the heels of a report released earlier in the week by the International Monetary Fund calling for an end to the $1.9 trillion in global energy subsidies, which the international economic organization says could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent.

Based in San Francisco, California, Mike Hower is an Associate Editor at Sustainable Brands and writes about companies and organizations engaged in sustainability strategy, clean technology and social entrepreneurship. As a natural politico, he has a soft spot for anything related to public policy and the intersection of business and government, which he also blogs about on SustySavvy.com. Contact him at mikehower@gmail.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@mikehower).

Mike Hower headshot

Currently based in Washington, D.C, <strong>Mike Hower</strong> is a new media journalist and strategic communication professional focused on helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. To learn more about Mike, visit his blog,<a href="http://climatalk.com/&quot; > ClimaTalk</a>.

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