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Senators warn new EPA rules would raise gas prices

Dec. 27, 2011: Shown here is a gas station in Swansboro, N.C.AP

Senators from both sides of the aisle are warning that looming EPA regulations on gasoline could impose billions of dollars in additional costs on the industry and end up adding up to 25 cents to every gallon of gas. 

The senators, in a letter this week to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urged the agency to back off the yet-to-be-released regulations. Though the EPA has not yet issued any proposal, they claimed the agency is planning to call for a new requirement to reduce the sulfur content in gasoline. 

Citing the nearly $3.40-a-gallon average price of gas and the state of the economy, the senators said "now is not the time for new regulations that will raise the price of fuel even further." 

They said it would be "expensive" for companies to meet the sulfur targets and cited a study that found it could add up to $17 billion in industry-wide, up-front expenses, in addition to another $13 billion in annual operating costs. 

This could in turn add between 12 and 25 cents to an average gallon of gasoline "depending on the stringency of the proposed rule," they wrote. 

"If the EPA does not proceed carefully with its regulations, the nationwide price of fuel could increase to the further detriment of consumers and businesses," the senators warned. 

The lawmakers on the letter were: Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; David Vitter, R-La.; and Mark Begich, D-Alaska. 

The EPA did not comment on the senators' complaints. 

Asked Friday for a response to the concerns, the EPA said: "EPA is still in the process of developing the proposal." 

An EPA official said publicly in November that the agency was developing the so-called "Tier 3" standards proposal during a House subcommittee hearing. 

Margo Oge, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, told lawmakers that the proposal would help the country meet its "clean air goals." 

"Motor vehicles and their fuel are an important source of compounds that form air pollution," she said. 

Oge said reducing sulfur in gasoline would make emission control technology more effective, and "the end result would be cleaner air." 

If the EPA formally issues the proposal, it would probably take more than a year for the agency to review public comments and finalize any plan. 

A Senate Republican aide said the authority to tighten the sulfur standards comes from the Clean Air Act but noted that EPA has the discretion to either impose the standards or not. 

The current sulfur standard is 30 parts per million in gasoline -- that's down from a prior standard of 300 parts per million. The new proposal could bring the standard down to 10 parts per million, according to the senators who wrote to Jackson 

The aide said there was a "bigger benefit" when the standard dropped from 300 to 30 parts per million. But squeezing that down to 10 parts per million, the aide said, might not offer as much bang for the buck. 

"They're extraordinarily expensive relative to the last round of sulfur reductions," the aide told FoxNews.com.

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