After facing election-year delays, an environmental rule requiring cleaner gasoline is now back in the regulatory pipeline, and a top Environmental Protection Agency official said Wednesday the agency expects to propose the rule by March.
The regulation, which requires lower levels of sulfur in gasoline, had all but disappeared from the regulatory process for the better part of last year as President Obama was seeking reelection and didn’t want to be perceived as imposing regulations that could raise prices at the pump.
“There is a lot of momentum for moving forward with that [rule] quickly,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy at a National Journal policy summit on Wednesday.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget began reviewing the rule Wednesday, according to its website.
“We expect to put that rule out in March,” McCarthy said. “The idea is to complete it by the end of the year.”
Environmentalists say finalizing the rule by year’s end is critical. “Otherwise we would lose an entire model year and the resulting clean-air benefits,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
Automakers were seeking the lower-sulfur fuel because it would help them meet other regulations, McCarthy said, including the administration’s tougher fuel-efficiency standard of 54.5 miles per gallons by 2025.
“It allows them to have different technologies available on those vehicles that will help perform and allow them to meet those standards, and other standards moving forward,” McCarthy said.
During last year's political campaign season, industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute had claimed the regulation would increase gasoline prices. Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of environment and energy strategy in Honda’s regulatory office, said later at the National Journal event that the regulation's impact on gasoline prices would be “trivial.”