Consumers Union urges EPA to act quickly on Tier 3 rule
WASHINGTON — Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today wrote the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge quick action to finalize the “Tier 3″ rule to lower sulfur in gasoline and reduce vehicle tailpipe emissions. A variety of health, environmental, and consumer groups are pressing the agency to take action before the end-of-2013 deadline to ensure the rules are implemented starting in 2017 as planned.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, CU policy counsel Shannon Baker-Branstetter wrote, “Cleaner gasoline and vehicles are within reach, but every year they are delayed, more Americans needlessly suffer from preventable air pollution. Exposure to air pollution from vehicles is widespread, and reducing sulfur in gasoline and cutting tailpipe emissions will provide tremendous benefits to public health. Living, working, or going to school near major roadways increases exposure to ozone and particle pollution that worsens lung and heart health and causes thousands of premature deaths every year.”
CU is urging the EPA to finalize the rule as soon as possible, not only to avoid delay of the rule’s health benefits, but also so that Tier 3 implementation begins in 2017, so automakers can reduce compliance costs by harmonizing technology selection and development for the Tier 3 standards and Model Year 2017-2025 greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards already in place.
CU collected more than 31,000 signatures in support of the rule. See below for the full text of the letter:
November 4, 2013
The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
Consumers Union, the advocacy and policy division of Consumer Reports, urges the Environmental Protection Agency to promptly finalize the “Tier 3” rule to lower sulfur in gasoline and reduce vehicle tailpipe emissions. Consumers Union collected 31,068 signatures in support of this rule (submitted as part of our comments to the proposed rule), and we are eager to see the final rule implemented as quickly as possible. Cleaner gasoline and vehicles are within reach, but every year they are delayed, more Americans needlessly suffer from preventable air pollution.
Exposure to air pollution from vehicles is widespread, and reducing sulfur in gasoline and cutting tailpipe emissions will provide tremendous benefits to public health. Over 130 million Americans (more than 40% of the country) breathe unhealthy air, and a major source of this pollution is passenger and heavy-duty vehicles. On average, Americans spend over an hour traveling along roads every day. Time spent in the car (especially in congested traffic) increases pollutant exposure, and cars provide little protection against gas-phase pollutants (especially VOCs). Living, working, or going to school near major roadways increases exposure to ozone and particle pollution that worsens lung and heart health and causes thousands of premature deaths every year.
Time is also of the essence because addressing sulfur levels in gasoline and vehicles together as a “system” further improves the cost-effectiveness of reducing emissions, and it allows automakers to maximize efficiencies in emission reduction technologies. Consumers Union urges the EPA to finalize this rule as soon as possible, not only to avoid delay of the rule’s health benefits, but also so that Tier 3 implementation begins in 2017. Thereby, automakers can reduce compliance costs by harmonizing technology selection and development for the Tier 3 standards and Model Year 2017-2025 greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards.
Although the proposed rule has clearly identified costs, pollution has costs of much greater magnitude. According to analyses by the EPA and by independent economists, when the standards are fully implemented by 2025, they will likely add less than $150 to the cost of a vehicle and less than 1 cent per gallon to gasoline costs. According to EPA’s own impact analysis, average costs of hospital care due to pollution-related illness alone range from $400 for an emergency room visit to $12,000 for a hospital admission for asthma and from $11,000 to $30,000 to treat other respiratory and heart conditions. Such admissions can be especially expensive or fraught with complications for the elderly or those with other health problems. By 2030, the annual health benefits of Tier 3 would be between $8 and $23 billion (double to seven times the costs). All polluting sectors should contribute their fair share to reducing pollution, and Tier 3 standards are one of the more economical and cost-effective ways to get meaningful reductions to help make air safe to breathe.
It would be “pennywise, tons foolish” to save a cent on gasoline, only to have to pay even more with our health as a result of additional tons of pollution. To put the cost in perspective, over the last four years, gasoline prices fluctuated over $2.25 dollars per gallon, with weekly increases of 10 cents happening with regularity.
In summary, this common-sense rule can deliver enormous public health benefits, and can be implemented at an affordable cost. We urge the EPA to finalize the rule before the end of this year, so it can apply to 2017 models and sync with 2017-2025 greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards. We thank you for your attention to this important consumer and public health issue.
Policy Counsel, Consumers Union
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Consumers Union Applauds Multi-State Effort to Put Millions of Zero Emission Vehicles on the Road
The governors of eight states today announced an innovative new push to reduce vehicle emissions and advance the presence of zero emission vehicles and the infrastructure to support them. Representatives from California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont unveiled a plan to collectively put 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025 and develop fueling stations to keep them running.
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, applauded the move to lower fossil fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.
“Consumer Reports surveys have shown that fuel efficiency is at the forefront of consumers’ minds when they are purchasing a vehicle and that consumer interest in alternative-fuel vehicles is strong. From a practical perspective, electric vehicles mean consumers can save thousands of dollars on fuel over the life of the vehicle. But the benefits of zero emission vehicles go beyond individual fuel cost savings and can benefit communities by contributing to cleaner air and efforts to fight climate change,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “We applaud the leadership shown by these states in advancing a future with lower vehicle emissions and the infrastructure to support a growing consumer interest in zero emission vehicles.”
Contact: David Butler, email@example.com, or Kara Kelber, firstname.lastname@example.org,
The report serves as an important reminder that alternative energy sources are necessary not “only” to slow climate change and protect public health and the environment. Alternatives are also necessary for our future economic well being.
“Resource prices remain high by historical standards—even at a time when the world economy has not fully emerged from its post-recession period of slow growth,” wrote the McKinsey Global Institute in its September 2013 report, “Resource revolution: Tracking global commodity markets.”
What are the factors driving the volatility? New sources of fossil fuels are harder to access, and projects have higher costs. In fact, according to the firm, the marginal cost of producing a barrel of oil has gone up 250 percent in last decade.
The report also cited the hidden costs to the environment of continued production of traditional energy sources. In one example, the report said the price of coal underestimates by 175 percent the subsequent environmental impact on nature and health of refinement.
The report comes at a time when industry is pushing to expand fracking operations, which manage to harm the environment while also demonstrating the trend of fossil fuel energy sources becoming increasingly difficult to access.
The McKinsey report does not dwell on alternative sources of energy, but there’s no doubt they provide a valuable solution. As supply in the energy market increasingly relies on expensive geologic expeditions to uncover new sources of fuel, alternative sources could bring stability.]]>
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, urges you to support the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 1392), which enjoys broad bipartisan and public support, and to oppose amendments that undermine the progress of the bill and would cause harm to consumers and the environment.
S. 1392 will help accelerate the adoption of building energy codes for residential and commercial buildings, improve the energy efficiency of the industrial sector and federal government, provide job training and technical assistance related to efficient buildings, and authorize the Department of Energy to establish a Supply Star program to support efficiency improvements in product supply chains These are common sense measures that the non-profit, non-partisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Environment (ACEEE) estimates will create 164,000 jobs, save $13.7 billion in energy costs, and avoid 80.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030.
Many amendments have been offered to strengthen the bill such as:
However, many amendments under consideration would harm public health and slash consumer benefits of energy efficiency, such as:
These harmful amendments would increase air pollution and reduce the trillions of dollars consumers can expect to save on their gasoline and power bills from important efficiency standards and programs.
In addition, several amendments have been offered as an attempt to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. For example, one amendment would block employer subsidies for members of Congress and congressional staff receiving health care through health care marketplaces. Another would delay implementation of the individual responsibility provision in the ACA. This provision is needed to make sure that insurance pools have enough healthy individuals to keep insurance premiums down. The Affordable Care Act is already providing benefits for consumers, and when it is completely implemented, millions of individuals will have access to affordable coverage for the first time. Attempts to block implementation of this important law will ultimately harm consumers.
Consumers deserve to have efficient products and homes that don’t hurt their financial health through higher energy bills. Improving energy efficiency and diversifying our energy supply are the best ways to help consumers keep their energy costs under control. Please work to improve our economic and environmental health by keeping the march to improve energy efficiency on track. Thank you for considering our views.
Policy Counsel, Consumers Union
Consumer protection bill headed to Governor’s desk
Bill cracks down on gas price manipulation, increases transparency; Diverse coalition urges Gov. Brown to sign
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sept. 13, 2013 – Just before midnight last night, the California Legislature passed legislation aimed at protecting consumers from erratic price spikes at the pump. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.
Senate Bill 448 (Leno) sets in motion a new effort at the California Energy Commission focused on detecting and detouring fuel price manipulation by big oil companies. Focused on consumer protection, a new expert market advisory committee on transportation fuels will advise the state on whether fuel prices are impacted by illegal activity. The bill also requires the state to develop recommendations to reduce California’s fuel price volatility associated with fuel producer market power.
“I thank the Legislature for passing SB 448, which addresses the unpredictable and inexplicable pain at the gas pump Californians have suffered in recent years,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.“Unstable and erratic fuel prices impact our economy, small businesses and the pocketbooks of most middle- and low-income families, who are already struggling to make ends meet. If signed into law, this proposal would create a transparent process for the investigation of possible cases of price manipulation while protecting our state’s consumers against price volatility.”
“Volatile gasoline prices wreak havoc on consumers’ pocketbooks and make it very difficult to budget for monthly expenses,” saidShannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Counsel of Consumers Union. “Gov. Brown has the opportunity to increase transparency by providing additional resources to protect California consumers.”
Just a year ago, gas prices rose to more than $5 per gallon throughout the Golden State, due to volatility experts say may have been due to price manipulation. While Californians emptied their wallets during travel seasons, fuel producers blamed unexpected slowdowns at refineries for the inflated prices. But an independent analysis showed otherwise. McCullough Research, an independent energy consulting firm, found there was an increase of gasoline inventory – meaning other market forces, and possibly withholding of supply, were likely intervening.
“This bill is aimed at protecting California consumers and environmental regulations that, for too long, have been at the mercy of a few companies that control nearly all the transportation fuel market,” said Tim O’Connor, California Climate Initiative Director for the Environmental Defense Fund. “The governor’s signature would confirm his ongoing commitment to California’s clean energy leadership and the development of clean fuels.”
“We’ve proudly supported SB 448 because it establishes new protections for California’s environment, refinery workers and consumers at large,” said Dina Biscotti, California Policy Organizer with the BlueGreen Alliance.
The Stop Fooling CA campaign joins numerous other consumer, industry and environmental groups in supporting this bill and urging the governor’s signature, including the Greenlining Institute, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the United Steel Workers Union.
About Stop Fooling California: StopFoolingCA (www.stopfoolingca.org) is an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.
CONTACT: Eric Jaffe, 415.397.5000 x311, email@example.com]]>
According to MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment, total ground-level emissions account for 200,000 early deaths annually, and transportation is the leading cause. More than smokestacks atop power plants, tailpipe emissions cause 53,000 premature deaths annually. Those affected could die a decade earlier than otherwise might have been the case. In comparison, about 34,000 people died in vehicle-related accidents in 2012.
The study, published in Atmospheric Environment, is a sobering reminder that air quality directly impacts human longevity. At Consumers Union, we’re focused on strengthening emissions standards in order to reduce long term effects of air pollution. We want to see EPA finalize the Clean Cars “Tier III” gasoline and tailpipe standards implemented as quickly as possible. Cleaner gasoline and vehicles are within reach, and every year they’re delayed, more Americans needlessly suffer.]]>
Consumers Union Applauds New Fuel Economy Labels for Used Vehicles
WASHINGTON, DC – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy today announced a new development in how consumers could shop for used vehicles. The agencies are making a new label available to car dealers that features EPA fuel economy estimates and CO2 estimates for used vehicles sold in the United States since 1984.
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, applauded the move that could arm consumers with more information on the operating cost of a vehicle before purchasing.
Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “Monthly gasoline costs can be higher than car payments, especially for used cars. Consumers may think that they’re saving money by purchasing a less expensive vehicle, only to pay more at the pump over the life of the car.”
The consumer demand for higher fuel economy only continues to build. The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold has reached a new high, according to findings from theUniversity of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Used vehicle sellers can create the new label electronically athttp://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg
“Fuel economy labels are valuable to all car buyers, so this action today addresses what has been an information gap for used car buyers,” said Baker-Branstetter. “However, this is voluntary, so it is important for dealerships to provide customers with the labels. If dealerships choose not to take this step to help their customers, Consumers Union will urge the EPA to require them to in the future.”
Contact: Kara Kelber, firstname.lastname@example.org,
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers Union, the nonprofit public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, today commended the Senate for confirming Gina McCarthy as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator by a vote of 59-40.
Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “The EPA has tremendous responsibility to protect public health. Ms. McCarthy has demonstrated a strong commitment to scientific rigor and regulatory acumen that will make her an outstanding head of the EPA.”
Consumers Union is urging McCarthy to finalize the EPA’s “Tier 3” rule, which would lower sulfur in gasoline and reduce vehicle tailpipe emissions, by year’s end, and move forward on other critical measures to improve air quality and public health.
WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama today announced his comprehensive plan to tackle the issue of climate change. The proposal addresses climate change through three paths, including efforts to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions, prepare the country for impacts of climate change, and spearhead international efforts on the issue.
Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, welcomed plans to reduce both emissions and energy consumption as an effective way for consumers to save energy and advance clean energy technology.
Shannon Baker-Branstetter, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said, “President Obama spelled out a path forward that will move us towards a healthier, cleaner energy future. Investing in renewable energy accelerates progress towards diversifying our energy supply, lowering operating and fuel costs, and cleaning up our air and environment. Improving efficiency in our homes and businesses means consumers can save more money and energy while reducing waste and pollution.”
“Improved fuel economy standards for heavy duty trucks will further cut oil consumption and reduce what business owners spend on fuel–savings that can be passed on to consumers. And reducing carbon from power plants is the next logical step to build on the progress we will see from reduced vehicle emissions,” said Baker-Branstetter.