Gas industry accuses EPA of procedural rush

The proposal on auto emissions, which would require that refiners cut gasoline's sulfur content by more than 60 percent by 2017, was announced by the agency in March, but has not yet been published in the Federal Register. However, a supplemental notice was published in April announcing public hearings and the agency's acceptance of comments through June 13. 

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"What EPA did was issue a pre-publication version and then start the comment deadline before the rule made it to the Federal Register," explained Patrick Kelly, the API's downstream senior policy adviser.

"What they're doing is rushing the process in order to shorten the time for industry to be able to provide meaningful comment."

In April, the EPA held two hearings on the proposal, in Philadelphia, Pa., and Chicago, Ill. The API testified at both to express its concerns about the procedural issues and its opposition to the rule.

"There's a lot of justification that EPA has purportedly included that we've had scant time to review," added Kelly, who asserted that the EPA should accept comments for 90 days after formally publishing the rule, given the proposal's 938 pages. 

"A 37-day comment period, assuming the proposal was published today, would not be enough, and would subvert our statutory procedural rights," API Downstream Group Director Robert Greco added in the letter to Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to lead the EPA and current head of the air and radiation office. 

In a statement, the EPA said it will review the trade group's request. "We’re confident we can work through any procedural issues, but no decisions have been made on any extensions or additional hearings," the agency claimed.

The EPA estimates that by 2030 the rule will avoid up to 2,400 yearly premature deaths and save up to $23 billion in annual health costs. 

A September study from the API counters that the new standards would result in "very small" reductions in ozone levels by 2022, and the group adds that it could add up to nine cents per gallon of gas at the pump.

"The massive refinery investments it would require could drive up the cost of making gasoline and weaken the nation’s energy security without producing much, if any, environmental benefit," Kelly told reporters.