View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 1, 1999
                     CLEANER AIR FOR THE NEW CENTURY
                              May 1, 1999

Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton proposes major new steps to improve air quality and protect public health by dramatically reducing pollution from cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and light-duty trucks. The proposed rules would strengthen tailpipe standards for cars, SUVs and other vehicles, and reduce sulfur in gasoline, beginning in 2004. Under this plan, manufacturers would produce vehicles that are 77 to 95 percent cleaner than those rolling off the assembly lines today, while preserving consumers' ability to drive the vehicles of their choice.

Cleaner Skies and Healthier Air. Americans have made tremendous progress in improving air quality. Since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, air pollution has been cut more than 30 percent even as our population and economy have continued to grow. Since 1993, the number of over 43 million Americans' communities met federal air quality standards. In 1997, the Administration adopted the toughest new health standards in a generation for smog and soot, an action that will protect the health of 125 million Americas, including 35 million children. This past Earth Day, Vice President Gore announced a new measure to restore pristine skies over our national parks and wilderness areas.

Doing Better in the Decades Ahead. In a study released last July, EPA reported that additional emission reductions will be necessary to maintain the nation's progress in achieving cleaner air, and could be achieved cost-effectively by coupling tighter tailpipe standards with cleaner fuels. The proposed rules, to be phased in between 2004 and 2009, would:

The number of miles Americans drive each year rose from 1 trillion in 1970 to 2.5 trillion in 1997 and is expected to continue to rise at a rate of 2-3% a year. Sales of higher-polluting SUVs, minivans and other light-duty trucks, now 50 percent of the market, are expected to keep growing. The proposed measures, when fully implemented, would reduce vehicle emissions at a level equivalent to removing 166 million cars from the road. EPA calculates that the proposals would prevent as many as 2,400 deaths, 3,900 cases of chronic bronchitis, and tens of thousands respiratory problems a year.

Flexible and Cost-Effective. The proposed rules reflect extensive consultation by EPA with the auto and fuel industries, states and local officials, environmental groups, and public health communities. They provide for flexible implementation for the auto and oil industry to meet the new standards cost-effectively. For instance: 1) by allowing auto companies to average across the fleet as they phase-in the new requirements and; 2) allowing for a market based trading and banking system for both industries to reward those who lead the way in reducing pollution. The projected costs of meeting the standard - about $100 for cars, $200 for light-duty trucks, and between one and two cents per gallon of gas - would be outweighed by the projected public health benefits. EPA is inviting public input on the proposed rules, and will carefully consider all comments before the rules are finalized. The proposed rules can be found on the Internet at

MAY 1, 1999


Today, President Clinton is announcing the next step in providing Americans with cleaner air, cleaner cars, and cleaner gasoline. The proposed new standards are specifically designed to reduce harmful air pollution, like smog-causing nitrogen oxides, with flexible and cost-effective ways that give Americans the cleaner air and the consumer choices they want.

Cleaner Cars. EPA is proposing to set tougher tailpipe emissions standards beginning in 2004 -- the first time both cars and light-duty trucks are subject to the same national pollution control system. The proposed new standard is .07 grams per mile (gpm) for nitrogen oxides, a 77 percent reduction for cars and an 95 percent reduction for trucks and SUVs. Vehicles under 6000 pounds would be phased in between 2004 to 2007, and vehicles weighing between 6000 and 8500 would be phased in through 2009. The current national standards range from .6 gpm for cars to 1.53 gpm for the heaviest SUVs and vans. Estimated cost would be an average of $100 for cars and $200 for SUVs per vehicle.

Cleaner Gasoline. EPA is proposing for the first time that tailpipe emissions and sulfur in gasoline are addressed together as a single system to achieve cleaner air efficiently and cost effectively. Sulfur in gasoline impedes the effectiveness of catalytic converters -- the devices that reduce pollution from tail pipes. The proposal would require the nation's refiners to meet an average sulfur level of 30 parts per million (ppm) by 2004, down from the current average of more than 300 ppm. Small refiners -- those with 1,500 employees or less -- would have an additional 4 years to comply, with the opportunity of an extension for those that can demonstrate a severe economic hardship. EPA estimates the cost would be between one and two cents per gallon, or about $12 to $24 dollars per year per car.

Maximum Flexibility. To ensure that the car and oil industries meet the new standards cost-effectively, the proposal includes several flexible mechanisms: