Obama Administration Releases Cleaner Fuel and Auto Emissions Standards

Slashing Air Pollution and Providing Health Benefits to Thousands

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Glynn Wilson –

The Obama administration issued the final emission standards for cars and gasoline Monday to improve fuel efficiency in cars and trucks, significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses every year.

Traffic Jam on the Highway

Cars line up against a detour caused by a fatal accident on the highway during rush hour.

Based on extensive input from the public and a broad range of stakeholders, including public health groups, auto manufacturers, refiners and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the cleaner fuel and car standards as an important component of the administration’s national efficiency program to reduce greenhouse gases that will also save vehicle owners money at the gas pump and help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.

“These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in releasing the new standards. “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.”

The final standards will cut harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions from cars and trucks and result in average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over a vehicle’s lifetime. The fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards covering model year vehicles from 2012-2025 are projected to save American families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs.

Following a proven approach that addresses vehicles and fuels as an integrated system, the action will enable substantial pollution reductions at low cost, the administration says.

“The standards slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, reducing standards for smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establishing a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and virtually eliminating fuel vapor emissions,” the EPA says. “These standards will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, by up to 30 percent.”

The final fuel standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down from 30 to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently.

“New low-sulfur gas will provide significant and immediate health benefits because every gas-powered vehicle on the road built prior to these standards will run cleaner – cutting smog-forming NOx emissions by 260,000 tons in 2018,” the administration says. “The Tier 3 standards cut tailpipe pollution where people live and breathe – reducing harmful emissions along the streets and roadways that run through our neighborhoods and near our children’s schools.”

By 2018, EPA estimates the cleaner fuels and cars program will annually prevent between 225 and 610 premature deaths, significantly reduce ambient concentrations of ozone and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by about 260,000 tons. That is about 10 percent of emissions from on-highway vehicles, with those reductions reaching 25 percent (330,000 tons) by 2030.

By 2030, EPA estimates that up to 2,000 premature deaths will be prevented each year, along with 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits and 1.4 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution.

Total health-related savings benefits by 2030 will be between $6.7 and $19 billion annually. The final standards are expected to provide up to 13 dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards, more than was estimated for the proposal. The sulfur standards will cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $72 per vehicle in 2025.

The program will also reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day.

“The standards support efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot and aids their ability to attain and maintain science-based national ambient air quality standards to protect public health, while also providing flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance,” the administration says.

EPA conducted extensive outreach with key stakeholders throughout the development of the rule, held two public hearings in Philadelphia and Chicago, and received more than 200,000 public comments. The final standards are based on input from a broad range of groups, including state and local governments, auto manufacturers, emissions control suppliers, refiners, fuel distributors and others in the petroleum industry, renewable fuels providers, health and environmental organizations, consumer groups, labor groups and private citizens.

The final standards will work together with California’s clean cars and fuels program to create a harmonized nationwide vehicle emissions program that enables automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The standards are designed to be implemented over the same timeframe as the next phase of EPA’s national program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017. Together, the federal and California standards will maximize reductions in GHGs, air pollutants and air toxics from cars and light trucks while providing automakers regulatory certainty, streamlining compliance, and reducing costs to consumers.

To meet the cleaner gasoline standards necessary to reduce tailpipe emissions and protect public health, the agency has built in flexibility and adequate time for refiners to comply. For those refineries that may need it, the program would provide nearly six years to meet the standards.

To provide a smooth transition for refiners to produce cleaner gasoline, the program is structured in a way that allows the industry to plan any additional investments needed. In addition, the agency is giving special considerations to small refiners, while offering provisions for compliance assistance in the case of extreme hardship or unforeseen circumstances.

Find out more on EPA’s Website.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “Obama Administration Releases Cleaner Fuel and Auto Emissions Standards

  1. March 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Reaction to the News from Industry, Organized Labor, States, Environmentalists and Health Advocates

    General Motors

    “Today, the EPA took steps to harmonize regulations to improve air quality by issuing its final rule on Tier 3 tailpipe emission standards. We appreciate EPA’s treatment of vehicles and fuels as a system by introducing lower sulfur market fuel.”

    GM looks forward to reviewing the specifics of the Tier 3 final rule, but it appears EPA has effectively harmonized the federal and state vehicle emissions requirements. We commend the agency for understanding the importance of this objective and creating one set of emissions standards for our vehicles nationwide.

    In addition, we support the provisions for lower sulfur levels in fuels. Since the vehicle emission system and the fuel used act together in determining the emissions performance of the vehicle, automakers need cleaner fuels to achieve the lowest possible emissions. In addition, cleaner fuels provide the added benefit of reducing emissions immediately across the entire on-road fleet.

    And finally, we commend EPA for selecting a certification fuel that is representative of in-use fuels. This allows OEMs to optimize vehicle performance to an actual fuel that our customers use nationwide.

    John Viera, director, Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters, Ford

    “Automakers have dramatically reduced vehicle emissions by 99 percent during the last four decades, and today’s announcement builds on the good work we already have done. Ford is committed to continuing to reduce emissions across our vehicle lineup. We also are proud of the progress we have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles and facilities, cut energy and water usage in the vehicle manufacturing process, and increase the fuel-efficiency of Ford’s vehicles, including our plug-in hybrids and full electric offerings.”


    Toyota supports EPA’s efforts to advance the nation’s clean air goals. The Tier 3 standards announced today continue to recognize the importance of treating vehicles and fuels as a system, by linking lower sulfur gasoline with more stringent vehicle emission standards. Lower sulfur gasoline not only results in cleaner air, but also enables advanced engine technologies to help improve vehicle fuel economy.

    “We commend EPA for its collaboration with California in an effort to further harmonize the next-generation of emission standards,” said Tom Stricker, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs, Toyota Motor North America. “This is an important step toward Toyota’s ultimate objective of a single national emissions and fuel economy program.”

    While a review of the regulation details is still needed, Toyota is supportive of the overall direction embodied in today’s announcement.

    Kia Motor America

    “EPA’s new Tier 3 standards, which treat vehicles and fuels as a system, are a critical step forward in bringing smog-forming vehicle emissions close to zero. Of particular importance is the reduction of sulfur levels in gasoline, which will yield an immediate and cost-effective air quality improvement from vehicles that are already on the road. Honda commends EPA for this rational approach to clean air regulation.”

    Edward B. Cohen, Vice President, Government & IndustryRelations Honda North America, Inc.

    “In keeping with our commitment to clean mobility, Kia Motors America praises the Environmental Protection Agency for its decision today to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline with a single national standard for the industry. This EPA ruling will result in lower emissions and reduced greenhouse gases from all gasoline-powered vehicles in operation – and, most importantly, cleaner air for all. In addition to the immediate benefits, ultra-low sulfur fuel will enable a wider range of technologies to meet environmental needs and reach higher fuel economy standards for the future.”

    “Hyundai Motor America applauds the EPA’s decision today to promote cleaner air. The rule will align key provisions of federal and California emissions rules, replacing two standards with a single national standard for manufacturers to meet in the vehicles they design and build. Also, EPA’s rule will reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline, providing drivers of both new and older cars with an improved fuel to meet stricter emissions standards.”

    Michael J. Stanton, president and CEO of Global Automakers

    “Reducing sulfur in gasoline brings instant benefits to consumers and the environment,” said Michael J. Stanton, president and CEO of Global Automakers. This rulemaking will reduce emissions from the existing fleet of vehicles on our roads today and opens the door for even cleaner cars in the future.”

    Mitch Bainwol, president, Alliance of Automobile Manufactures

    “Automakers have already reduced vehicle emissions by 99%, and we’re seeking more progress while still delivering high quality, affordable vehicles to our customers. Today’s announcement links autos and fuels together, recognizing that our cleaner cars will need cleaner fuels to fully achieve and optimize the improvements we are being asked to make. Cars are so clean that we are now reducing the last 1% of emissions, and Tier 3 will take us three-quarters of the way toward that goal. In addition, consumers will benefit from having a single program nationwide, harmonizing California standards with federal standards and avoiding the costly duplication of regulations.”

    Emission Control Technology Association

    “We commend the EPA for its leadership in acting to improve the air we breathe and stimulate the economy by adopting Tier 3,” said Tim Regan, President of the Emission Control Technology Association which represents the world’s leading developers of emission control technology. “Rarely does Government have an opportunity, as it does with Tier 3, to make such a significant, immediate improvement in the lives of all Americans. As an industry, we are proud to stand with the Administration and a broad coalition of organizations in supporting these new rules.”

    “ECTA is pleased, too, that the study we commissioned from Navigant Economics provided critical economic analysis showing that these regulations will not adversely impact consumers, but will stimulate billions of dollars in economic activity and create thousands of new jobs,” Regan added. “Furthermore, the adoption of Tier 3 will enable domestic environmental technology manufacturers to produce new technologies for the U.S. market and export them to foreign markets with similar automobile standards, including Europe, Japan and Korea – and, over time, other significant markets.”

    “Tier 3 is a winner for millions of American who regularly breathe unhealthy air and for the thousands of workers who will benefit from an enhanced manufacturing sector,” Regan added.

    Joe Kubsh, executive director, Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA)

    “EPA’s Tier 3 rule will provide a significant opportunity to further reduce emissions from the light-duty vehicle fleet by utilizing an integrated systems approach that combines advanced emission control technologies with advanced engine designs and very low sulfur gasoline fuel. In addition, these advanced emission control technologies will enable all current and future high-efficiency vehicle powertrains to be viable options for complying with EPA’s greenhouse gas pollutant standards,” said MECA’s executive director, Joseph Kubsh. “MECA congratulates the agency for all of its hard work in getting this rule finalized and for its continued efforts in helping to achieve the goal of cleaner air for all Americans. Our industry is prepared to do its part to deliver cost-effective, advanced emission control technologies to the marketplace.”

    Chris Miller, executive director, Advanced Engine Systems Institute (AESI)

    AESI Executive Director, Chris Miller, said “Our members and their employees are pleased that the USEPA has issued a final Tier 3 rule to further reduce sulfur in fuels and enable use of the most advanced clean car technologies. This action gives important clarity to our industry so we can act on long-planned manufacturing investments which will secure America’s continued global leadership in this field. We fully expect that new standards will contribute greatly and quickly to better air quality in communities across the country at very low cost.”

    Ken Zerafa, president, Umicore Autocat USA, Inc.

    Umicore compliments the EPA for its forward thinking in establishing the Tier 3 emission control regulations. This regulation, which covers a ten year vehicle model design basis as well as harmonizing with California LEVIII, will solidify our company’s long term investment and product development strategies to meet the market demands for these vehicles. In addition it will stabilize our workforce for the present and create future highly skilled jobs in research, engineering and manufacturing.

    The reduced sulfur level with allow us to develop new catalyst technologies to meet various engine operating designs and also improve the performance of the current fleet.

    Titus Iwaszkiewicz, president, Emitec Inc.

    “Despite popular mis-conceptions, air pollution from motor vehicles is still a serious threat both to the environment and to our health. Tier 3 regulations are an important step towards improving air quality in the numerous areas of the United States that don’t currently meet the air quality standards set forth by the Clean Air Act. Protecting the environment is an on-going commitment that we can’t allow to fade into the shadows. Although some may view emissions legislation as having a negative impact on the economy, quite the opposite is true. The jobs created by emissions control technology as well as the health care costs avoided by a clean environment more than compensate for the incremental costs associated with manufacturing cleaner products. Additionally, healthy people are more productive!”

    Bob King, president, United Auto Workers

    “We commend the EPA for its leadership in acting to improve the air we breathe and stimulate the economy by adopting Tier 3,” said Tim Regan, President of the Emission Control Technology Association which represents the world’s leading developers of emission control technology. “Rarely does Government have an opportunity, as it does with Tier 3, to make such a significant, immediate improvement in the lives of all Americans. As an industry, we are proud to stand with the Administration and a broad coalition of organizations in supporting these new rules.” “ECTA is pleased, too, that the study we commissioned from Navigant Economics provided critical economic analysis showing that these regulations will not adversely impact consumers, but will stimulate billions of dollars in economic activity and create thousands of new jobs,” Regan added. “Furthermore, the adoption of Tier 3 will enable domestic environmental technology manufacturers to produce new technologies for the U.S. market and export them to foreign markets with similar automobile standards, including Europe, Japan and Korea – and, over time, other significant markets.”

    United Steelworkers

    “These regulations will place the United States in the forefront of emissions controls with USW members continuing as leaders in building these technologies,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “Our members have helped to eliminate over 40 billion tons of carbon monoxide from entering the air we breathe.

    “EPA’s regulations will keep the United States competitive in global fuel standards and reduce 23,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms in children, improving the air we breathe.”States “Nearly 90 percent of refineries can either comply with the regulations tomorrow, make operational changes or revamp to comply in less than two years,” said USW international Vice President Gary Beevers, who heads the union’s oil sector.


    Robert M. Summers, secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

    “By issuing these new, robust vehicle and fuel quality standards, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency have clearly demonstrated their commitment to protecting the public’s health and our environment. Reductions from motor vehicles are one of the most important strategies needed to provide clean air to Maryland’s citizens today and for generations to come. These actions will also provide a significant benefit to the Chesapeake Bay, as approximately one-third of its nitrogen issues are caused by air pollution. Together with our federal partners, we can create a more sustainable future for our children.”

    Janet Coit, director, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

    “I applaud EPA for taking this important step to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. The lower sulfur gasoline component of the new Tier 3 standards will provide instant results. Indeed, of all the air pollution control measures currently under consideration by EPA, this rule will provide the greatest and most immediate air quality benefit for citizens in the State of Rhode Island. We can all breathe easier due to having a strong leader in EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.”

    David K. Paylor, director, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

    “The Commonwealth of Virginia supports EPA’s Tier III motor vehicle emission and gasoline regulations because they are necessary to protect the health of our citizens. The Tier III regulations are feasible and essential to meet the health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone in Northern Virginia in a timely and cost effective manner. The cars and trucks to which the Tier III regulations apply are significant contributors to ozone pollution. Tier III’s low-sulfur gasoline standard of 10 parts per million will improve the effectiveness ofNOx controls on existing vehicles, thereby reducing NOxemissions by nearly 300,000 tons per year nationwide at what projects to be a very reasonable price. In the absence of the Tier III regulations, Virginia would be forced to find additional NOxreductions from other already well controlled sources at a much higher cost.”

    Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

    “EPA has taken a giant step forward by finalizing regulations that cut harmful pollutants from existing and new cars and trucks,” said Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “We will see cleaner air and healthier families in Massachusetts because of this common sense, cost-effective rule to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline.”

    Mary D. Nichols, chairman, California Air Resources Board

    “California applauds our federal partners for taking this important step to align Tier 3 with California’s low-emission vehicle standards,” said California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “This will deliver a single national clean cars program for the benefit of public health, consumers, and the car industry.”

    Gary W. Pruitt, air pollution control officer/executive director, Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency, Yakima, Washington

    “As an area which has struggled to attain the 24-hour PM2.5 standard, we strongly support this control strategy which comes at so little public cost and yet all but guarantees our area will never exceed the standard. The significant reduction of NOxavailable for secondary formation of aerosol nitrates alone could accomplish this goal.”

    Craig Kenworthy, executive director, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, Seattle, Washington

    “Adoption of the EPA Tier 3 rule is a cost-effective way for the people in our region to breathe cleaner air and make us healthier. The rule is also central to helping Tacoma/Pierce County achieve and maintain federal fine particle pollution standards.”

    Robert Klee, commissioner, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

    “Cleaning up our nation’s cars and fuels is one of the most cost effective ways to reduce air pollution and protect public health,” said Commissioner Robert Klee of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We support EPA’s action on the Tier 3 rule because it will provide cleaner air for everyone in Connecticut and throughout our nation.”

    Mayor Annise D. Parker, Houston, Texas

    “We applaud the EPA for adopting Tier 3 vehicle emissions and gasoline standards for cars and light trucks effective in 2017. It will mean less ozone in Houston’s air, getting us closer to meeting the national standard for ozone while best protecting public health. We are proud of the work we are doing in Houston to significantly improve air quality but we cannot do it alone.”

    Environmental/Public Health Organizations

    Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association

    “Cars, light trucks, and SUVs are major sources of pollution that can harm the health of our most vulnerable family members and neighbors, including those who suffer from asthma, lung and heart disease, as well as those who live, work and go to school near major roadways,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We thank the Obama Administration and Environmental Protection Agency for putting these critical public health safeguards in place to protect communities across the nation.”

    Albert A. Rizzo, MD, past‐chair of the National Board of Directors at the American Lung Association, and section hcief of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine for Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware

    “The standards will reduce harmful air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. These pollutants are important precursors of ozone pollution and particle pollution,” said Albert A. Rizzo, MD, Past‐Chair of the National Board of Directors at the American Lung Association, and Section Chief of Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine for Christiana Care Health System in
    Newark, Delaware. “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.

    Michelle Robinson, director of Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program

    “Finalizing these standards is life-changing for people from all walks of life. Every day, tens of millions of Americans breathe unhealthy air, and reducing pollution from our cars and trucks is a critical part of the solution.

    “These science-based standards represent the single most effective step our country can take to reduce smog generated from our daily driving. Tier 3 is a cost-effective way to ensure we can get where we need to go in our cars and trucks each day, without threatening our air and our health.

    “Getting here took the work of a diverse coalition of science, health, environmental, labor, faith and industry groups and strong leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency to push the standards over the finish line. Today we thank Administrator McCarthy and the EPA for protecting tens of thousands of Americans from air pollution from our gasoline and tailpipes.

    “It’s hard to imagine how anyone could argue against protecting thousands of lives at the cost of less than a penny a gallon. But the oil industry has chosen to do just that, asserting once again that its profits are more important than the health and welfare of the American people. We are not surprised that the oil industry is trying to block progress instead of investing in a cleaner fuel future, but they’ll need more than dubious claims and fear mongering to stop the country from enjoying the cleaner air, better health, and jobs that Tier 3 will bring.”

    The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, president/C.E.O. Evangelical Environmental Network

    We’re proud to stand together with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, The American Lung Association, the car industry and wide variety of other manufacturers to celebrate the promulgation of the Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Standards.

    We’ve made good process in cleaning up our air, but our children are still at risk. The American Lung Association calculates that these standards will prevent more than 2,500 premature deaths and more than 15,000 asthma attacks each year by 2030. For pro-life evangelicals like myself this is great news, given that medical research links vehicle pollution to birth defects. It’s simple: cleaner fuels lead to purer air and healthier kids. And all for one penny a gallon. That’s a good deal for all of us.

    The Tier 3 Standards are another great example of industry, government, and citizens working together for a healthier, cleaner America. The more we work together the better for us all.

    George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union

    George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “Millions of Americans struggle with health issues like asthma and respiratory problems that come from breathing air that’s heavy with smog and other pollutants. These rules will reduce air pollution by promoting cleaner gasoline and cleaner cars, and as a consumer group, we think it’s going to make a big difference for public health. Low-sulfur gasoline will help automakers develop new technologies for more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and when you add up the benefits for better health and better vehicles, we think it’s a big win for consumers.”

    Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund

    “President Obama and Administrator McCarthy deserve great credit for this important step forward for clean air. These strong new tailpipe and gasoline standards will cut pollution and save thousands of lives every year. By reducing dangerous pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds in our air, these new clean air standards will help all American families breathe easier, especially those dealing with asthma and other lung ailments. These new protections are supported by businesses, unions, public health groups, and states — including the U.S. auto industry, United Auto Workers, American Lung Association, and the state of Utah. This broad coalition demonstrates, once again, that we can have a cleaner environment and a strong economy at the same time.”

Comments are closed.