Press Release

Gillibrand Calls for New Tier of Emission Reduction Standards

Nov 29, 2012

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today urged the Obama Administration to implement a third tier of emission reduction standards that would increase vehicular fuel efficiency.  The President initially instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move forward with a new proposal in 2010 as part of proposed vehicle efficiency standards, but the rules have yet to be formally proposed. Joined by twelve of her Senate Colleges, Senator Gillibrand called on the Administration to take an important step to improve human health and stimulate job creation by promptly adopting Tier 3 emission and fuel standards.

“The implementation of Tier 3 emission standards would be valuable to Americans,” said Senator Gillibrand. “More stringent emission standards would significantly decrease air pollution, create jobs and increase worker’s economic productivity by reducing the number of sick days they take from lung and heart related ailments.”

The first and second tier emission reduction standards were implemented in the early 1990’s and the early and mid-2000’s, respectively.  However, chemicals released from cars and other light-duty vehicles directly contribute to high levels of smog, which can trigger asthma attacks and adversely affects those with heart and lung diseases. The implementation of a new Tier 3 emission standard is expected to result in a 29 percent decrease in nitrogen oxide emissions, a 38 percent decrease in carbon monoxide emissions and a 26 percent decrease in volatile organic compound emissions. According to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), reducing the emissions of these harmful chemicals would prevent 400 premature deaths and 52,000 lost workdays due to illness each year.


The requirements for the new Tier 3 standards have not been formally proposed, however, it is expected that the rules would rely on installing advanced catalytic convertors in new vehicles to eliminate pollution and reducing the sulfur content of gasoline.  Reducing sulfur in gasoline would increase the effectiveness of the catalytic convertors.  Additionally, older vehicles that do not have the technology for the converters would still benefit because their engines would produce less hazardous byproducts from the reduced sulfur in gasoline.  The new technology would add less than $150 to the price of a new vehicle, and would have practically no effect on the cost of gasoline.  Additionally, a study by Navigant Economics concluded that installing the catalytic converters would generate 24,500 jobs over three years and that the value of the health benefits from reduced emissions would equal $5-6 billion annually by 2020 and $10-11 billion annually by 2030.


A recent study by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies asserted that the catalytic converters and decreased amount of sulfur in gasoline would be the most cost-efficient method for reducing these types of emissions. 


Senator Gillibrand was joined on the letter by Senators Joseph Lieberman, Patty Murray, Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez, Jeff Merkley, Charles E. Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Blumenthal, John Kerry and Sherrod Brown.


The text of the letter is below:


November 29, 2012



President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.  20500


Dear Mr. President:


We are writing to strongly urge you to take an important step to improve human health and stimulate job creation by proposing the so-called Tier 3 emission and fuel standards in 2012 and adopting them promptly thereafter.


The health benefits associated with the Tier 3 proposal are well established.  Tier 3 will substantially reduce harmful pollutants that are responsible for health related ailments such as heart attacks, premature death, asthma attacks and other chronic lung diseases.  A recent study by Navigant Economics stated that these health benefits have an estimated value of $5-$6 billion annually by 2020 and $10-$11 billion annually by 2030.


In addition to these health benefits, Tier 3 will also result in significant economic benefits.  Navigant’s study estimated that Tier 3 will create over 24,000 new jobs over three years for equipment installation at the nation’s refineries.  Another 5,300 jobs will be created by the operation and maintenance of this new equipment.  These jobs will be the direct outcome of refining industry investments in new plants and equipment to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline and to make American refineries more competitive.


Furthermore, a study sponsored by the oil industry has concluded that Tier 3 will not result in refinery closures.  As no refineries are expected to close because of Tier 3, its adoption will not cost jobs.  On the contrary, it will create jobs.  


Implementation of Tier 3 will also capture the economic benefit associated with harmonized emission standards and a uniform low sulfur fuel standard nationwide.  As a national program, Tier 3 will enable auto makers and their suppliers to manufacture to scale and minimize the cost of emissions reduction equipment installed in new vehicles. 


Another important benefit of Tier 3 is that it will yield the most cost effective means for the states to achieve cleaner, healthier air and meet their National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) attainment goals as required under the Clean Air Act.  This is why the Bush Administration assumed the timely implementation of Tier 3 when it set the ozone NAAQS in 2008.  According to a study by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (“NACAA”), 10-ppm sulfur gasoline will result in a reduction of over 260,000 tons of NOx emissions overnight.  We know of no other single strategy for NOx that will achieve as significant, timely, and cost effective emissions reductions.  


Opponents of Tier 3 have claimed that the regulation will result in increased gas prices at the pump.  Stated simply, Navigant’s study defies this claim.  The study showed that reducing the sulfur content of gasoline under Tier 3 will increase the cost of refining by only one cent per gallon.  The study also proved that this cost increase to refiners will not be passed on to consumers in the form of higher gas prices. 


In closing, it is clear that the numerous health and economic benefits of Tier 3 far outweigh any costs to refineries in making the investment to reduce sulfur. We hope that in light of these compelling considerations, you will move forward with proposing Tier 3.