Governors make pitch for low-sulfur gasoline

Six governors joined the Washington, D.C. mayor in urging the Obama administration to swiftly propose mandates aimed at cutting smog-forming sulfur emissions from the nation’s roads and highways.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, the state and district leaders insisted that the requirements governing sulfur emissions from gasoline are essential “to achieve our shared goal of clean air for all our citizens.”

At issue is a long-stalled proposal to force refiners to slash sulfur emissions from 30 parts per million to 10 parts per million. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to formally propose the requirement, known as “Tier 3″ emissions standards, this spring.

That would go a long way to quickly reducing ozone pollution from vehicles and the respiratory illnesses that go along with it, the political leaders said.

Read more: Refining chiefs expect more regulations under Obama

“Low-sulfur gasoline will enable deep and almost immediate pollution reductions from existing vehicles, a significant additional benefit not easily achieved on such a shorter time scale any other way,” the lawmakers said. “This is the best and least costly next step we can take to improve air quality in many areas of the U.S.

The change would allow catalytic converters to work more effectively, ultimately causing cars to emit fewer smog-forming compounds. For automakers, the change would allow the construction and use of cleaner combustion engines, giving them new avenues for meeting other environmental mandates.

The group cast the standards as key to new innovation for the auto sector as well as economic growth.

“The world is moving towards lower sulfur gasoline and cleaner cars,” they note. “Investments to meet Tier 3 in the U.S. can invigorate the competitiveness of U.S. refineries and add momentum to the revival of our domestic motor vehicle and emissions control manufacturing sectors.”

The letter signers, hailing mostly from the Northeast, include Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

Oil refiners worry they would be hit with new costs, potentially squeezing profits while also raising gas prices. Estimates range from an extra 9 cents per gallon, according to an industry-backed study, to the EPA’s prediction of just one penny more per gallon.

Industry lobbyists also are making the case that the mandate could do more harm than good, by forcing refiners to invest in energy-hogging hydrotreaters to strip sulfur from gasoline and consequently boosting greenhouse gas releases at their plants.

governors’ letter to President Barack Obama urging Tier 3 sulfur emissions mandates