Stringent gasoline rules OK'd in Calif. Fears about harm to economy ignored

November 23, 1991|By San Francisco Chronicle

LOS ANGELES -- California air-quality regulators adopted the world's stiffest gasoline rules yesterday, brushing aside oil industry warnings that they will damage the state's economy.

The California Air Resources Board voted 6-1 to approve a new recipe for gasoline that is expected to cut smog-forming emissions by one-third and add 12 to 17 cents to the price of every gallon sold starting Jan. 1, 1996.

The new formula will cost a motorist who drives 15,000 miles a year about $90 annually, fuel experts say.

After hearing 16 hours of testimony over two days, board members concluded that the health benefits of improved air outweighed any negative economic effect.

"Air pollution is not one of those environmental problems that should be put on the back burner in tough economic times," said San Diego County Supervisor Brian Bilbray, a member of the Air Resources Board.

The new fuel regulations change eight specifications in gasoline content, vapor pressure and distillation temperature. They are expected to reduce pollutants by 1,500 tons a day and lower the cancer risk from benzene and other compounds by about 25 percent.

Adoption of the rules marked a major defeat for oil companies that argued that the plan would cost as many as 80,000 California jobs by 2000 because of increased costs of doing business.

The industry had offered an alternative plan that it said would provide 80 percent of the benefits for 50 percent of the cost.

"We're disappointed they chose to go with the most expensive approach," said Doug Henderson, executive director of the Western States' Petroleum Association.

"It will mean a continuation of the trend of economic difficulties in California, particularly for our industry."

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