EPA Finds Sweet Spot to Release Contentious Gasoline Rule

Amy Harder

After facing election-year delays, the Obama administration on Friday announced a controversial rule that requires cleaner gasoline.

The environmental regulation, which seeks to reduce toxic air pollution by requiring lower levels of sulfur in gasoline, had all but disappeared from the regulatory process for the better part of last year as President Obama was seeking reelection and didn’t want to be perceived as imposing regulations that could raise prices at the pump -- one of the most potent political risks a campaign can face.

The administration finally found a political sweet spot to release the rule. It’s the Friday before Easter weekend, a time when few people are paying attention to the news. Gasoline prices have actually fallen over the last few weeks. A month ago the average was $3.79 per gallon, according to AAA. Today it is $3.64. And perhaps most important, the administration is releasing the rule before the political silly season of the 2014 midterm elections (where 20 Democratic seats are up) gets into full motion.

Congressional Republicans and industry groups are blasting Obama for the rule nonetheless.

“With $4 dollar a gallon gas the norm in many parts of the country, we cannot afford policies that knowingly raises gas prices,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a statement.

Industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute have charged that the rule could increase gas prices about 25 cents per gallon. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the increase will be no more than one cent.