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Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency, pauses while speaking at a climate workshop sponsored by The Climate Center at Georgetown University, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama is poised to nominate McCarthy as head of the powerful Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy, who currently heads the EPA Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency, pauses while speaking at a climate workshop sponsored by The Climate Center at Georgetown University, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama is poised to nominate McCarthy as head of the powerful Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy, who currently heads the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, reportedly has the inside track to replace Lisa Jackson, who officially stepped down from the agency last week. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)  

Chorus of cheers and boos erupts over new EPA clean-fuel regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new clean-fuel standards, which could lead to an increase in gasoline prices, have drawn sharply contrasting partisan reactions in Washington.

The new standards reduce sulfur levels in gasoline in order to reduce toxic air pollution, which proponents say will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of childhood respiratory ailments.

Democrats, environmentalists and the auto industry have come out in support of the new rules, arguing they will save lives and protect public health.

“The implementation of Tier 3 emission standards is a big step forward for Americans,” said New York Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. “More stringent emission standards would significantly decrease air pollution, create new jobs and increase worker’s economic productivity by reducing the number of sick days they take from lung and heart related ailments.”

“We have been anxiously awaiting this rulemaking because it is good for the environment and will help harmonize the federal and California programs for both vehicles and fuels,” said Michael Stanton, president and CEO of the Global Automakers. “With 15 million new vehicle sales a year, automakers need predictable national fuel quality at the retail pump.”

Republicans and the oil industry have come out against the new regulations, arguing they burden industry and hurt consumers at the gas pump.

“This move signals a frightening flood of new rules under the potential Gina McCarthy-led EPA and represents one of a litany of likely regulations that require transparency to justify both the costs and the benefits,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who will weigh in on McCarthy’s nomination as EPA chief.

“There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices,” said American Petroleum Institute downstream group director Bob Greco. “Consumers care about the price of fuel, and our government should not be adding unnecessary regulations that raise manufacturing costs, especially when there are no proven environmental benefits.”

According to the EPA, the new standard will cost about $130 per vehicle in 2025 and will have provisions to help small businesses comply.

However, API says that the standard would increase prices as high as 9 cents per gallon. That could rise dramatically to 25 cents per gallon if the EPA adds another vapor pressure reduction regulation, according to API.

The refining industry has also attacked the proposed standards, arguing that refiners are already burdened by numerous regulations. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers says the refining industry already achieved a 90 percent reduction in sulfur levels. The new standards will cost them another $10 billion in new infrastructure, as well as $2.4 billion annually in operating costs.

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