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July 28, 2013
AGs ask EPA to speed up tailpipe rule

EPA’s proposed Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards (May 21, 2013, FR), aka the tailpipe rule, received a strong vote of support from the attorneys general (AGs) of 12 states along with representatives of three cities.  In a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Robert Perciasepe, the AGs noted that in the absence of the standards, “many areas will continue to have ambient ozone concentrations exceeding the [national ambient air quality standards].” 

In the proposal, the EPA stated that “few other national strategies exist that would deliver the same magnitude of multi-pollutant reduction projected to result from the proposed Tier 3 standards.”  The AG letter agreed with this statement and urged that the standards be finalized before the end of 2013 “so that our states and cities may realize their benefits as soon as possible.”

Three components

EPA’s proposal has three major components:

  • Tailpipe standards covering nonmethane organic gases, nitrogen oxide (NOx), and particular matter (PM) would apply to all light-duty vehicles and some heavy-duty vehicles;
  • Evaporative emissions standards for all light-duty and on-road, gasoline-powered heavy-duty vehicles; and
  • A requirement that gasoline contain no more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur on an annual average basis.

The emissions standards would be phased in according to vehicle type beginning in 2017, while the fuel sulfur standard, in the form of an annual average, would take effect January 1, 2017.  According to the EPA, the proposed requirements would reduce vehicle-related NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 80 percent and PM by 70 percent.

Big cities going backwards

The AGs say that the long fight their states and the EPA have waged to reduce harmful air pollution has still left more than 150 million people in the country exposed to unhealthful levels of air pollution. 

“Poor air quality causes an estimated 50,000 premature deaths each year, and costs from air pollution-related illnesses are estimated to be $150 billion per year,” say the AGs.  “In a troubling development, after many years of steady improvement, smog levels in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington have stopped improving or even worsened in the last few years.”  

The AGs have also accepted EPA’s projection of benefits from the proposed standards.  According to the Agency, compliance would prevent as many as 23,000 cases of respiratory illness in children, 22,000 asthma attacks, and 2,400 premature deaths each year as well as reduce risks to millions of Americans living, exercising, and working near major roads.

Automakers onboard

Finally, the AGs point out that automakers “strongly support” the proposed standards, which will allow them to sell vehicles meeting California’s Low Emission Vehicle III standards in all 50 states at a cost that would be between one-half and one-seventh the monetary benefits.  In addition, they note that the refinery upgrades necessary to meet the lower sulfur standards are expected to generate 24,500 installation jobs during the first 3 years of the program and 5,300 permanent jobs.

Click here for the AG letter.

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