It’s troublesome that the auto, oil, and gas industries have been allowed to make products that for so many years have caused millions of illness and deaths from emissions.
But the good news is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday it’s proposing standards for cars and gas that will significantly reduce harmful pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also improving the efficiency of the nation’s cars and trucks.
When adopted, the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths a year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, the EPA said.
The proposal will slash emissions of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, including reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard, and reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero, said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe.
The proposal will also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.
The proposed standards support efforts by states to reduce harmful levels of smog and soot, he said.
By 2030, the EPA estimates that the proposed cleaner fuels and cars program will annually prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits, and 1.8 million lost school days, work days, and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution.
Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually, Perciasepe said.
The program would also reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work, or go to school close to high-traffic roads, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling on roads each day.
To develop the proposal, the EPA met with representatives from auto, oil, and gas industries as well as environmental, consumer, and public health organizations. Based on feedback and a rulemaking process, EPA’s proposal is estimated to provide up to $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards.
The proposed sulfur standards will cost refineries less than 1 cent per gallon of gasoline on average when the standards are in place, according to the EPA. The proposed vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025. The proposal also includes flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional lead time for compliance.
The proposed standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down to 10 parts per million in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gas enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. That means that vehicles built before the proposed standards will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur gas, Perciasepe said.
The proposed standards will work with California’s clean cars and fuels program and enable automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states. The proposal is designed to be carried out over the same timeframe as the next phase of the EPA’s national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017.
After the proposal is published in the Federal Register, the public can comment on it, and the EPA will hold public hearings.