Tier 3 fuels, vehicles key to Utah clean air

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Editor’s note: This post was authored by Gov. Gary R. Herbert and was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune, Sun., Oct. 26, 2014

Utah is at its most beautiful in  autumn. Watching  changing leaves in our mountains  under crystal clear skies makes it easy to forget the air quality challenges we face. However, enhancing our air quality remains a top priority even when the problem is less evident.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a rule requiring the production and sale of cleaner gasoline and vehicles, known as Tier 3. The rule requires large refiners to meet a lower average sulfur standard in gasoline (66 percent cleaner) by 2017, while small refiners, including all Utah refineries, must meet the new standard by 2020. Tier 3 fuel immediately reduces emissions from any car on the road today.  The rule also requires low-emission vehicles to be phased in to the fleet beginning with model year 2017.

The EPA rule allows refiners to average the sulfur content of gasoline across their fleet of refineries. So a refiner could comply with the rule by reducing sulfur in its fuel in another state while doing nothing at the refinery in Utah. In other words, Utah refineries would potentially be exempt from producing Tier 3 fuel.

The seven counties nationally that will benefit most from Tier 3 fuel are here in Utah, according to the EPA. The Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality has concluded no strategy would do more to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front than the transition to Tier 3 fuel and vehicles. Cutting Utah out of the benefits of the new standards is simply unacceptable.

Although Utah does not have authority to require the refiners to produce Tier 3 fuel, I am committed to working with refiners and automobile dealers to expedite the transition to these cleaner technologies.

My administration has met with the Utah Automobile Dealers Association (UADA) to encourage bringing Tier 3 cars into Utah sooner. These vehicles are already available, and at roughly the same cost as cars on the lot today. The UADA has agreed to work with its members to make the cleanest version of the models they sell available to Utah consumers.  Those in the market for a new car can help improve our air by purchasing a model with a smog rating of eight or above.

In recent weeks, I have met one-on-one with the top executives of the refineries that sell the vast majority of gasoline into the Utah market. In those meetings, I reiterated my commitment to taking meaningful action to improve air quality and encouraged the executives to produce Tier 3 gasoline at the refineries that sell into Utah.

The refinery executives all responded positively and expressed interest in being part of the air-quality solution. Tesoro, Big West, Holly Frontier and Sinclair all said they would plan to produce Tier 3 gasoline in Utah. In fact, Holly Frontier indicated their intent to make the transition as soon as possible, even before the regulatory deadline. Chevron is actively analyzing its system, and committed to give serious consideration to converting their North Salt Lake facility.

Already, Utah refineries have invested about $1 billion since 2006 in air pollution control equipment and cleaner fuels. They will invest hundreds of millions more  to comply with the new, more stringent emission-control requirement imposed by the state last year. The cost of Tier 3 is on top of that. These refiners are stepping up to protect the health of Utahns.

There is no silver bullet to solve our air quality issues; we must each do our part for clean air.

I remain committed to improve air quality in our state and Tier 3 fuels and vehicles are an important part of that effort.

 

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