Newly-approved car standards from the Environmental Protection Agency could prevent thousands of premature deaths and respiratory ailments through major reductions in emissions nationwide and in Wisconsin.
Public health advocates, environmentalists and the auto industry have come together to support “Tier 3” standards, which would require petroleum refineries to meet tight new requirements for sulfur content in gasoline and diesel fuels. The petroleum industry has spoken out against the newly established measures, calling them an “overstepping of bounds” by the EPA.
The final fuel standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent and smog-forming pollutants such as nitrous oxides by 80 percent, according to the EPA report. By the time the standards are fully implemented, 2,000 premature deaths and 50,000 respiratory health issues among children will be prevented, according to the report.
Today, 149 million Americans are exposed to unhealthy amounts of air pollution, a large percentage of which comes from motor vehicle emissions, especially in urban areas, according to the EPA.
“These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “By working with the auto industry, health groups, and other stakeholders, we’re continuing to build on [President Barack] 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.”
Erin Roth, executive director of Wisconsin Petroleum Council, has spoken out against the new standards, saying that gasoline sulfur levels are already low.
According to the EPA, the economic effects of the new proposals are negligible, with an average increase of 1 cent per gallon at the pump, but Roth said the those estimates are vastly understated.
“We don’t believe the EPA’s estimates on the costs to the consumer are accurate,” Roth said. “They don’t look at the economic impacts. We believe the cost of implementing far outweighs the environmental benefits that the EPA touts. We already have low sulfur gasoline. The U.S. EPA has just decided to take it a step further.”
Chris Snyder, general counsel for the Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealers Association, said the economic impact of the standards are still unclear and could not say how much the standards would raise prices for consumers, but there would be “no economic benefits.”
Generally, the auto industry has also showed its support for the new standards, Snyder said. Currently, because of varying emissions standards for different states, auto manufacturers have to make different cars for different states, an issue that will no longer hinder the industry under the standards, Snyder said.
“The price of the vehicles will probably be slightly more expensive … but if cleaner cars are what the people want, that’s what [dealers] want to sell,” Snyder said.
Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, said the health effects in Wisconsin would be predominantly seen in urban areas such as Milwaukee.
“[Sulfur pollution from vehicle emissions] disproportionately impacts low income neighborhoods, inner cities and people that live close to highways and congested areas,” he said. “There are a lot of winners here—the auto industry, people with respiratory issues and the environment.”