Automakers back EPA tailpipe proposal

Source: Jeremy P. Jacobs • E&E  • Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A coalition of automakers urged U.S. EPA last week to proceed with stricter standards for tailpipe emissions, highlighting a divide within industry over the potential new regulations.

Global Automakers — which includes Ferrari, Honda, Nissan and others — told EPA the “Tier 3” standards would help the industry by making emission regulations uniform nationwide.

Currently, they said, California has stricter standards, which creates problems for automakers.

“We need to harmonize the vehicle criteria emissions programs,” Global Automakers President Michael Stanton wrote in a letter for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Friday. “Neither automakers nor the agencies have the resources to duplicate efforts.

Stanton added that a carmaker “should be required to develop and produce only one version of a vehicle for the U.S. market.”

EPA is scheduled to propose rules this year to crack down on tailpipe emissions. Among the most controversial aspects of the regulations is an expected reduction in the amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline — a move that is expected to result in steep reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide emissions.

The rules are among the most hot-button air pollution issues facing EPA this year. Environmentalists fear the agency will punt on the rules facing the political pressures of an election year, and they are seeking to ramp up pressure on the White House to move forward with the rules (Greenwire, Jan. 30).

The rules have also created a rift between the oil industry and automakers. The oil industry is strongly pushing back because its members would likely be saddled with the cost of the new regulations. They argue that it would cost companies billions to install new technologies at their refineries. Those costs, industry has said, could result in several refineries closing and gas prices rising by up to 25 cents per gallon.

The agency has said it plans to issue a proposed rule by March and final rule by October.

EPA is expected to lower the limit on sulfur from 30 parts per million to 10 ppm, which would put it in line with California’s standard and satisfy Stanton

“Gasoline quality improvements, such as reducing sulfur in gasoline to 10 parts per million or lower, will not only assist auto manufacturers in achieving more stringent Tier 3 standards for future vehicles,” he wrote, “they will also result in significant emissions reductions from the current fleet.”

EPA’s current Tier 2 standards date back to 1999. A 2011 National Association of Clean Air Agencies study suggested that a 10 ppm limit on sulfur in gasoline would reduce vehicle emissions of NOx by 60 percent, carbon monoxide by about 38 percent and other volatile organic compounds by close to a third. Those reductions would result in significant health benefits.