EPA Proposes Clean Air Measures for Gasoline, Finalizes MATS Rules

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University
The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday announced its proposed Tier 3 rules, which would reduce allowable amounts of sulfur in gasoline and help automobiles’ catalytic converters capture more pollutants. The new measures would reduce sulfur in gasoline by more than 60 percent—from the present average of 30 parts per million to 10 parts per million by 2017—an environmental benefit comparable to taking 33 million cars off the road. The EPA measure would increase the price of gasoline by less than a penny per gallon but deliver up to $23 billion in health benefits by 2030, according to The Washington Post. The oil industry, however, points to its own study, which suggests a 6 to 9 cent rise per gallon. Under the plan, fuel vapor emissions would drop to nearly zero, making it easier for the auto industry to meet tougher standards for new-car tailpipe emissions.

The Tier 3 standards would yield gasoline sulfur levels similar to levels already being achieved in California, Japan, South Korea and other countries in Europe and elsewhere, according to the EPA. The proposed rules will soon be open for public comment.

The EPA also issued the final rule for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for new coal- and oil-fired power plants—raising limits slightly from those laid out in December 2011. The final rule sets mercury emissions limits at 0.003 pound/GWh, up from 0.0002 pound/GWh in the previous rule.

The agency also filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to review a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that tossed out the Cross State Air Pollution Rule. The rule required cuts in soot and smog-forming pollution that blows across state lines.

Spills Thrust Keystone XL into the Spotlight

Two oil spills, one in Arkansas from a pipeline rupture and one in Minnesota from a train derailment, stirred new criticism of and debate about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The fuel passing through Keystone is the same type that leaked from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas, a fact that prompted some environmental groups to promise protests should President Barack Obama approve the project. Keystone has also been criticized by scientist James Hansen, who retired from NASA this week to pursue campaigning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even so, a new poll shows broad bipartisan support for the pipeline, with 66 percent favoring its approval and construction. Obama told House Republicans last month that a decision on Keystone XL would come soon.

U.S. Coal Use Rising

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas prices have risen significantly, increasing coal-fired electric generation. In fact, the EIA finds natural gas prices have risen 50 percent since April 2012. If prices continue to climb, the agency predicts coal use will increase 18 percent by 2040.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.