When the Environmental Protection Agency a year ago announced its intention to finalize standards to reduce sulfur in gasoline, it was no surprise to hear applause from environmental groups, public health experts, and Democratic governors of states bedeviled with traffic congestion. When the EPA actually released those final regulations Monday, a new voice was being heard: Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert. Unlike GOP governors who reflexively decry EPA regulations as costly job-killing mandates, Herbert was weary of what he called the “gunky” smog that obliterates Salt Lake City’s view of the mountains and triggers unhealthy air alerts. Last summer, he wrote to the EPA in support of the agency’s plan to cut sulfur in gasoline by more than 60 percent. Sulfur clogs catalytic converters, which results in more nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other particulates being spewed from tailpipes.
The EPA is essentially nationalizing stringent rules California already has in place and bringing US sulfur levels in line with those of the European Union, Japan, and South Korea. Herbert said the new regulations, which will go into effect in 2017, would “make a meaningful difference . . . in terms of reduced health-care costs, improved economic activity, and better quality of life.” Nationally, the EPA estimates that by 2030, ultra-low-sulfur gasoline will prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks and up to 2,000 premature deaths every year.
Herbert is so serious about the issue he announced in his January state-of-the-state address that Utah would transition on its own to low-sulfur fuels and low-emissions vehicles. If more governors were so impatient for clean air, all of the United States would breathe more deeply and see more clearly — much more quickly.