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December 21, 1999

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"I am honored to announce the boldest steps in a generation to clean the air we breathe by improving the cars we drive. Working closely with industry, we will ensure both the freedom of American families to drive the vehicles of their choice, and the right of American children to breathe clean, healthy air."

President Bill Clinton
Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Today, in Washington, President Clinton announced the toughest standards ever for reducing harmful air pollution from auto tailpipes. The new standards ensure that sport-utility vehicles, mini-vans, and light-duty trucks meet the same low levels of tailpipe emissions as other passenger cars. Today's action will make new cars 77 to 95 percent cleaner than current standards, significantly reduce sulfur levels in gasoline, and for the first time treat gasoline and cars as a single system for achieving cleaner air. When fully implemented, these new standards will prevent thousands of premature deaths and cases of respiratory illness each year.

Meeting Our Clean Air Challenges. Since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, air pollution has been cut by more than 30 percent. Yet these gains are threatened because Americans are driving more than ever up from 1 trillion miles a year in 1970 to 2.5 trillion miles in 1997. In addition, drivers are increasingly favoring higher-polluting sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and other light-duty trucks, which now make up 50 percent of the new car market. To keep America on track to meet its clean air goals, the EPA has developed new measures that will dramatically reduce vehicle emissions. These reductions will be achieved cost-effectively with available technology by combining stricter tailpipe standards with cleaner fuel standards. The new measures, to be phased in from 2004 to 2009, will:

  • For the first time ever, apply a uniform tailpipe emissions standard to passenger cars, SUVs, and other light-duty trucks. The tough new standard will result in cars that are 77 percent cleaner and light-duty trucks that are up to 95 percent cleaner than today's models; and

  • Reduce average sulfur levels in gasoline by 90 percent - a necessary step because sulfur fouls catalytic converters, the units that remove pollutants from auto exhaust.
When fully implemented in 2030, these new measures will reduce auto emissions of nitrogen oxides (a key component of smog) by 74 percent, and soot by 80 percent the equivalent of removing 164 million cars from the road.

Improving Public Health. The projected costs of providing these new clean air protections are on average less than $100 for a new car, less than $200 for a new light-duty truck, and just two cents per gallon of gas. Furthermore, the projected benefits outweigh these modest costs by as much as five-to-one. When fully implemented in 2030, the benefits will include:

  • Preventing 4,300 premature deaths and 10,200 cases of bronchitis each year;
  • Preventing 260,000 asthma attacks, and 173,000 cases of respiratory illness, among children each year;
  • Preventing 4,300 hospital admissions each year; and
  • Avoiding 683,000 missed workdays and over 5 million days of restricted activity due to acute respiratory symptoms each year.

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December 1999

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