New tailpipe emission regulations mulled by White House
WASHINGTON -- The White House has started weighing a proposal to set stricter limits on tailpipe emissions, which could require automakers to put more emissions controls into their new cars and trucks within a few years.
Gina McCarthy, the head of the EPA’s air quality office, said during a speech today on Capitol Hill that the agency aims to release a proposed set of “Tier 3” rules in March, after getting approval from the White House. Final regulations would follow by the end of 2013.
Stricter tailpipe rules are already set to take effect in California for model year 2015. They will require cars to use more advanced catalytic converters and other equipment that reduces emissions.
Just as car companies struck a nationwide deal on fuel economy to match California’s new limits on carbon emissions, they have lobbied the EPA to replicate California’s tailpipe rules across the country.
Their goal is to avoid facing two separate sets of regulatory requirements. McCarthy signaled today that the EPA is listening.
“We have a proposal that’s reasonable, that’s cost-effective. We’ll be able to take comments and get it done,” she told Automotive News on the sidelines of an event this morning. “We think that provides the signal that the auto manufacturers are looking for, as well as everybody else.”
The proposal, which was drafted by the EPA in late 2011, was not formally sent to the White House for more than a year. It was delayed after a public challenge by the oil industry, which chafed at the cost of upgrading refineries to make cleaner gasoline.
The White House received the proposal on Tuesday, according to an online database that tracks new regulations.
McCarthy would not give details on the EPA’s proposal, but she said it would involve new equipment for cars and also changes to their fuel.
Automakers stood behind the EPA’s proposal during an event hosted by the National Journal on Tuesday, the day before the start of the Washington Auto Show.
Reg Modlin, director of regulatory affairs at Chrysler Group, said automakers started asking the EPA for Tier 3 rules before they even started negotiating the fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards -- which were finalized in 2010 and 2012.
Modlin said the rules will facilitate the wider use of direct-injection engines, which are becoming more common thanks to their inherent efficiency. These engines need low-sulfur fuel to work properly, he said.
Autos vs. oil
The corresponding increase in the price of gasoline should be “trivial,” said Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor Co.
A study released in late 2011 by a coalition of state regulators pegged the cost of low-sulfur fuel at about one cent per gallon, though the oil industry claims the cost might be several times as much as that.
Adding more emissions controls to cars would also cost money, but automakers seem willing to accept that to avoid a patchwork of rules.
Said Bienenfeld: "We are all in favor of having one national program that has consistent rules, regardless of the state."