[US] EPA announces new Tier 3 fuel emissions standards that aim to reduce sulfur content in gasoline by 60 percent.

The U.S. EPA has unveiled stricter emission standards for cars and trucks that will reduce the amount of sulfur that can be used in gasoline.  The new Tier 3 standards would reduce sulfur content in gasoline by 60 percent beginning in 2017.  The Tier 3 standards include both limits on the sulfur content in gasoline as well as standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions, considering the vehicle and its fuel as a single, integrated system.  By approaching the vehicle and fuel as a single system, EPA says that it is able to address emission reductions through feasible, cost-effective technology.

EPA claims that the new standards will prevent between 770 and 2,000 deaths annually by 2030, and prevent 30,000 children from getting respiratory symptoms.  EPA also claims that the new standard will result in significant reductions in pollutants that lead to smog, such as ozone and particulate matter, while helping states comply with national air quality standards.  EPA estimates that if gone unchecked, by 2018 passenger cars and light trucks will contribute 10-25 percent of total nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, 15-30 percent of total volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, and 5-10 percent of total direct particulate matter (PM) emissions.  EPA estimates that the tailpipe standards will reduce non-methane organic gases and NOx emissions by 80 percent and PM by 70 percent.

The rules face fierce industry opposition who question the science that EPA relies on in support of the claimed health benefits.  Industry groups and conservative law makers have called the Tier 3 standards expensive to implement with little environmental or health benefits.  The American Petroleum Institute anticipates that if the rules are implemented as drafted, it will require a $10 billion initial investment for refinery and facility modifications, followed by billions in additional compliance costs.  These costs will cause gas prices to increase by 6 – 9 cents per gallon and cause vehicle prices to soar.  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has countered that the rules will raise gasoline prices by only one penny a gallon, increase vehicle costs by less than $75 per vehicle, and have large benefits to health and the environment.

Automakers, including General Motors, welcome the rule as it will harmonize federal fuel standards with California’s Low Emission Vehicle III program.  The harmonized state and federal standard will allow carmakers to engineer and build vehicles on a national basis.


EPA Final Rule on the Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/documents/tier3/tier-3-fr-preamble-regs-3-3-14.pdf)

Laura Barron-Lopez, EPA announces new sulfur emission limits, The Hill, March 3, 2014 (http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/199706-epa-finalizes-stricter-sulfur-emissions-rule)

Jessica Coomes, EPA Tier 3 Rule Cuts Sulfur in Gasoline, Strengthens Vehicle Emissions Standards, BloombergBNA, March 4, 2014(http://www.bna.com/epa-tier-rule-n17179882576/)

Red-on-line EHS Legal Counsel