The EPA's Tier 3 Standards

The EPA’s Tier 3 fuel and vehicle standards drastically reduced air pollution and improved public health.

Published Nov 1, 2013 Updated Sep 26, 2017

What are the EPA’s Tier 3 standards?

“Tier 3” refers to a set of fuel and vehicle standards adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014. After implementation in 2017, the standards immediately reduced toxic air pollution from cars and trucks.

The Tier 3 standards affect both oil companies and vehicle manufacturers. Oil companies must lower the sulfur content of gasoline, making it cleaner to burn. Vehicle manufacturers must improve emission control technologies that reduce harmful tailpipe pollution (such as catalytic converters).

The cleaner fuel will also improve the effectiveness of catalytic converters in existing cars, as well as provide automakers with more options for designing new vehicles.

By setting standards for fuel and vehicles together, the Tier 3 standards achieved significant pollution reductions at the lowest cost possible—with huge benefits for public health.

Huge public health benefits

Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. By reducing transportation-related pollution, the EPA’s Tier 3 standards offered nationwide public health benefits.

According to the EPA’s estimates, the Tier 3 standards will by 2030 prevent up to 2,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 2,200 hospital admissions, and eliminate 19,000 asthma attacks each year.

Photo: Louis Vest

Oil companies and the EPA Tier 3 standards

While most of the developed world—including all of Europe—already uses low-sulfur fuel, its use in the United States has had one major roadblock: the oil industry.

Oil companies and their allies in Congress actively worked against the EPA’s Tier 3 standards, including making misleading and discredited claims about the impact these standards will have on consumers.

Counter to these claims, a study commissioned by the Emission Control Technology Association and conducted by Navigant Economics finds that the cost of complying with Tier 3 for US oil companies is “in the vicinity of 1 cent per gallon” and may not even pass through to consumers.

The EPA agreed in its analysis, finding that it would cost about two-thirds of one cent per gallon.

Less than a penny per gallon. Considering the huge public health benefits of the Tier 3 standards—and the record-breaking profits of the oil industry—that’s a small price to pay to protect the air we breathe.

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