Oil Industry Launches Campaign to Modify Clean-Air Standards

By Douglas Jehl New York Times News Service | THE JOURNAL RECORD, January 26, 2001 | Go to article overview

Oil Industry Launches Campaign to Modify Clean-Air Standards


Douglas Jehl New York Times News Service, THE JOURNAL RECORD


WASHINGTON -- The oil industry has begun a major campaign for changes in the strict clean-air standards for buses and big trucks that were ordered late last year by the Clinton administration.

Industry representatives are urging the Bush administration, Congress and the federal courts to revise the rules, which refiners say could lead to shortages and price increases for diesel fuel when the guidelines begin to take effect in 2006.

The issue could provide an early test of willingness on the part of the Bush administration and the Congress to challenge what critics have portrayed as hasty and misguided decisions by the Clinton administration on environmental policy.

The new standards, which would affect the heaviest polluters on American roads, were portrayed by the Clinton administration and its allies as the most important clean-air advances in a generation.

In expressing dissent, oil industry representatives have emphasized their support for measures aimed at reducing pollution from buses and trucks. But they say the new rules go too far and would impose unnecessary and potentially disruptive requirements on refiners.

The National Petrochemical Refiners Association, which represents virtually all American refiners, plans to challenge the new rules in federal court as part of a broader bid to explore "basically every avenue for revision," Bob Slaughter, the group's general counsel, said.

"We would hope that the new administration would be more interested in balancing energy supply and environmental concerns, because it's possible to strike a better balance," Slaughter said.

In recent months, the oil industry has said repeatedly that it could accept new standards that would require as much as a 90 percent reduction in the sulfur content of the diesel fuel used by the buses and big rigs. But it has opposed the Clinton measure, which would require a 98 percent reduction, on the grounds that the further cuts were environmentally unnecessary and could put some refiners out of business.

A study conducted last year for the industry by Charles River Associates, a private research group, found that the more restrictive Clinton standards could lead to a 12 percent shortfall in the supply of diesel fuel, the main fuel for the transportation industry. That study also predicted price spikes that could push the cost of fuel up more than 15 cents a gallon. …

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