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Energy / ENVIRONMENT

EPA Defends Clean-Gasoline Rule Amid GOP Scrutiny

February 27, 2012

Responding to a December inquiry by House members, the chief of air programs at the Environmental Protection Agency said that a forthcoming rule mandating cleaner gasoline will add just a penny to the price at the pump.

But with gasoline prices on the rise, congressional Republicans are bound to pounce on the rule as yet another administrative action causing motorists pain. AAA reported on Monday that gas prices have risen for 32 consecutive days, from $3.38 a gallon on average on Jan. 26 to $3.70 on Monday.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, sent a letter to House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., on Monday telling him that EPA estimates that its so-called “Tier 3” regulations on gasoline emissions would cost “approximately one penny per gallon by 2017.”

 

The rules will require more-stringent limits on sulphur in gasoline to reduce harmful emissions and are the third such iteration of cleaner-fuel rules, resulting in the “Tier 3” title used by industry experts.

Whitfield led a coalition of 68 House members (56 Republicans and 12 Democrats) who signed a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on Dec. 19 inquiring about the effect the Tier 3 rules could have on gasoline prices. Some industry reports claim the rule could increase gas prices by as much as 25 cents per gallon. By stressing the one-penny increase, EPA implicitly pushed back against that estimate.

“We understand that even minimal increases in the cost of gasoline are of importance to the American public,” McCarthy said in her letter.

The letter doesn’t mention anything about when EPA expects to propose the rule. The regulations have been awaiting review by the White House Office of Management and Budget for the last few months, raising concern among environmentalists that the rule is getting caught up in election-year politics where high gas prices are a central theme.

“Tier 3 is almost a no-brainer,” said Bill Becker, president of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. “It provides probably the most significant emissions reductions … than any other strategy under consideration, all for less than a penny a gallon.”

He noted that the rule, like EPA’s climate-change rules for power plants, remains stuck in regulatory limbo. “It’s just languishing at EPA,” Becker said of the gasoline rule. “There is no assurance that it’ll even get proposed this year.”

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