EPA Proposed Vehicle Emission and Sulfur Standards Update (6-1-99)

Most Recent Activity Background Hearing Summary

Most Recent Activity
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a series of hearings to look at the EPA's proposed vehicle emission and sulfur standards. More information on the hearings can be found here.

On May 1, President Clinton announced the EPA's proposed rule for more stringent vehicle emission standards and sulfur content levels in gasoline.  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) issued a statement of his own, announcing his hopes for legislation to block the EPA's plan.  The rule calls for bringing tailpipe emissions from sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and light trucks to the level of restrictions for other automobiles, and, more contentiously, reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline by 90 percent, to an average of 30 parts per million (ppm).  Sulfur is attacked because it can affect the performance of a car's catalytic converter, resulting in a higher level of tailpipe emissions.

Opponents of the new proposed rule are concerned with the lack of regional flexibility.  They think the more sparcely populated, and hence less polluted, western states will unfairly end up paying more for lower sulfur contents.  The EPA stance is that without nationwide standards, clean vehicles which for any number of reasons might travel to a high-sulfur region would be irreversibly damaged.  Their studies have shown introducing "dirty" gas to a car's engine just once will cause permanent damage to its emission control systems.  Inhofe and his supporters also worry that the new regulations will force smaller gas refineries out of business. The EPA is currently adhering to the Small Business Administration's definition for a small refiner (no more than 1,500 employees) and allowing extra time for these refiners to meet the standards.

The automobile industry is standing behind the EPA on this issue, believing that if they are to meet the new tail pipe emission standards that lower sulfur contents in gasoline will be a necessity.  Many in the oil industry see the new rules causing refineries economic hardships, however, and tend to side with Inhofe.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by Scott Broadwell, AGI Government Affairs Intern
Last updated June 1, 1999

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