Environmental Protection Agency plans rules on clean gas

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WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — The Obama administration is pushing ahead with a plan to require cleaner gasoline as a way to reduce smog.

The Environmental Protection Agency will release preliminary rules on Friday that would reduce sulfur in gas, an Obama administrative official said.

The rules would take effect in 2017, and their full impact would be realized a decade later, the official added. An EPA study said the new rule could save 2000 lives a year and cut back on childhood asthma.

“We estimate the rule will reduce smog by 30%” when fully implemented, said Becker Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air quality control agencies around the country.

A big point of contention is how much the tougher rules would add to the price of gas.

Refinery and oil and gas industry groups have said such a move would force motorists to pay nearly 10 cents more per gallon, based on a study by energy consulting firm Baker & O’Brien.

The White House is expected to say the move would add less than a penny a gallon, based on an EPA study.

Representatives of the energy industry disagree.

“There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices,” said Bob Greco, a director at the American Petroleum Institute.

The rule targets sulfur, which occurs naturally in crude oil. The more sulfur, the less efficiently a car runs. The rule would force refineries to reduce sulfur content by two-thirds to 10 parts per million from 30 parts per million, according to environmental groups briefed on the rule.

The National Association of Clean Air Agencies estimates the rule would have the same effect as taking 33 million cars off the roads.

“We don’t know of another air pollution strategy as effective to clean up the air,” said Becker.

Refineries that serve California, the European Union and Japan must already meet the tougher sulfur rules.

The Sierra Club, in a statement Friday, lauded the plan. “We have the technology to clean up our fuels and our cars and it’s critical that we put them to work,” Executive Director Michael Brune said.

The rule was developed with advice from the refiners and car manufacturers, as well as state officials, according to the Obama official.

Of the 111 refineries to be covered by the rule, only 16 will have to major major investments in new equipment to abide by the rule, the official said.

— CNN’s Dan Lothian and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.