Refiners Should Fund Clean Air Projects as Part of Hurricane Response

SAN FRANCISCO (September 8, 2005) -- The State of California's request today to waive an important federal air pollution rule in order to stabilize gasoline markets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina should be allowed only on a temporary basis, and is neither a safe nor appropriate way to address the long term impact of petroleum dependence, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The California Air Resources Board is seeking emergency permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend standards for cleaner-burning gasoline sold in the state.

"We do not oppose a temporary, short term waiver to get us through the immediate crisis," said NRDC vehicles policy director Roland Hwang. "But it's important to recognize that it will cause harmful health effects from increased air pollution. It cannot be a permanent rollback."

Hwang said panic driven price spikes that happened right after the hurricane already are fading, and prices are moving back toward pre-disaster levels. Those prices, however, are still 50 percent higher than a year ago.

"Prices ultimately reflect our long-term oil dependence problem. We won't fix that by choking our kids with more air pollution," said Hwang. "We need to make sure politicians do not take rash, counterproductive actions that leave Americans and our communities even more vulnerable to natural disasters and which needlessly damage the environment we've worked so hard to protect."

As oil prices have risen during the past year, the industry has enjoyed record profits. In formal comments submitted to the air board, conservation and public health groups said refiners should be required to fund clean air projects to help offset increased pollution from dirtier gasoline.