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The Planet
June 1999 Volume 6, Number 5


EPA Listens: New Rules for Cars, Gas

We wanted 'em, we got 'em and now we have to make sure we keep 'em - and make 'em even better.

In response to demands by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards to get the sulfur out of gasoline, improve diesel vehicles and light trucks, and promote advanced-technology vehicles.

The plan would clean up America's cars and heavily polluting light trucks beginning in 2004, and establish a national standard of 30 parts per million for sulfur (the current national average is 300 ppm). High levels of sulfur damage catalytic converters and render them ineffective.

(A May 14 federal appeals court ruling rejected the EPA's 1997 standards for soot and smog; the EPA has said it will appeal the decision and that the new car and gasoline standards will move forward as planned.)

"The proposed standards are strong, and we should thank the EPA," said Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Club's Clean Car Program. "But they could be even better."

  • The heaviest, dirtiest sport utility vehicles should have to comply with the new regulations by 2007 just like lighter SUVs - not in 2009 as proposed.
  • Trucks over 8,500 pounds used as passenger vehicles - like Ford's new Excursion - aren't covered in the new proposal but should be; automakers design heavy vehicles to avoid the program.
  • The standards call for cleaner diesel engines - but not clean enough. The auto industry plans to use diesel engines in SUVs to get a fuel-economy boost.

To Take Action: Thank the EPA for this first step and ask for even stronger rules. Write Public Docket No. A-97-10; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Air Docket (6102), Room M-1500; 401 M Street, SW; Washington DC 20460; Or call the EPA at (888) 835-5372.

In June the EPA will hold public hearings in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver and Cleveland. If you'd like to testify in person, please contact Michelle Artz at (202) 675-2397 or

Go on to the next article, "WANTED: Clean Money for Clean Elections."

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