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Utah governor praises cleaner-burning Tier 3 fuel coming to Utah

Dirty air, seen trapped here by a weather phenomenon known as a temperature inversion, is a focus of Gov. Herbert's proposed budget.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Cleaner burning gasoline and clearer skies are in Utah’s future.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert joined host Doug Wright on “The Doug Wright Show” Monday to talk about Tier 3 fuels, which will be introduced for the first time to Utahns on Jan. 1 after a three-year push to bring the cleaner gasoline to Utah gas stations.

Herbert said Marathon Petroleum and its 26 Speedway convenience stores and gas stations throughout the state will begin selling Tier 3 fuel Jan. 1.  And they’ll do it with no additional cost for drivers.

“What will the Tier 3 fuels do for Utah?” Wright asked the governor.

“It has a lot less sulfur content so it burns cleaner,” Herbert said.

“There’s about an 80% reduction in emissions with Tier 3 gasoline if it’s used with Tier 3 automobiles, which are 2017 or newer,” Herbert said. “That’s like taking four of every five cars off the road now if we start burning Tier 3 fuels in Tier 3 automobiles.”

What is Tier 3 fuel?

Tier 3 emissions standards for newer vehicles reduce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide emissions, per vehicle-mile traveled, by as much as 80 percent compared to previous Tier 2 standards. This results in significant reductions in ozone and secondary PM 2.5.  Several counties in Utah exceed national air quality standards for ozone and PM 2.5.

Even with older cars, the new Tier 3 fuels have about a 15% decrease in emissions, the governor said.

Governor Herbert says that, along the Wasatch Front, about half of the air pollution comes from tailpipes.

New Tier 3 requirements to limit the sulfur content in gasoline went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. They require the U.S. refining industry to reduce the average sulfur level in gasoline by more than 60% to just 10 parts per million (ppm) from the previous 30 ppm requirement under the Tier 2 regulation. The fuel standard grants Utah’s five refineries an extra three years to comply because they are considered small volume refineries.

Herbert said that as Utah drivers begin burning Tier 3 gasoline in Tier 3 vehicles, pollution should fall by about 80%.

“Are all of the refineries in Utah on board [with Tier 3 fuels]?” Wright asked.

“Everybody is sympathetic to the cause. They don’t have to do it, but they all said they were going to step up and see what we can do,” Herbert said. “Other refineries are saying ‘We want to do it, too.'”

Herbert is anticipating other refineries announcing in early next year that they are bringing on board Tier 3 fuels.

The governor also said that Marathon Petroleum will be wholesaling Tier 3 fuels to other Utah retail gasoline outlets.

“People are going to want to buy Tier 3 gasoline,” Herbert said.

Challenges of air quality

Over the last 10 years, Herbert said, pollution along the Wasatch Front has been reduced by more than 35 percent while adding about 300,000 more people who call the Wasatch Front home.

Another challenge for cleaner air, he said, is the weather phenomenon known as a temperature inversion that strikes parts of Utah in the winter, trapping dirty, colder air underneath a layer of warmer, cleaner sky.

“Even though we pollute less, if you put a lid on top of it, over time it accumulates, and you have a gunky day,” he said.

Herbert said when he entered the governor’s office, there were about 18 gunky days on average per winter compared to about eight or nine today.

“But that’s eight or nine too many,” the governor said.

Herbert said reducing air pollution is not only about buying Tier 3 fuels. It’s about residents of the state using mass transit or ride-sharing on red-air days, he said.

It’s not just about getting corporations to fall into line, he said, but “about all of us participating in the effort to pollute less in order to have cleaner air to breathe.”

You can hear Doug Wright’s interview with Governor Herbert below.