WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency will move ahead today with rules requiring cleaner gasoline and cars nationwide, despite fierce protests from the oil industry and some conservative Democrats, according to several individuals briefed on the matter.
The proposed rules -- which had been stuck in regulatory limbo since December 2011 in the face of intense political opposition -- would cut the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleetwide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017.
The regulation enjoys support from auto companies, state regulators, environmental groups and equipment manufacturers. But oil industry officials and their congressional allies argue the proposed standards would raise gasoline prices and could result in greater carbon dioxide emissions because they will spur additional refining activity.
Opponents estimate the standards would force refiners to spend $10 billion to upgrade their facilities and an additional $2.4 billion in annual operating costs, adding 6 to 9 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.
Public health advocates say the ultimate cost would amount to less than a penny per gallon because of provisions giving refiners flexibility in complying with the standards.
S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said the new standard could be "the most significant air pollution policy President [Barack] Obama will adopt in his second term."
He said studies show the rules would produce up to $11 billion in annual health benefits by 2030.
Automakers have lobbied in favor of the rule because cleaner fuel nationwide will make it easier for them to meet emissions standards.