Increasing Gasoline Octane Levels to Reduce Vehicle Emissions: A Review of Federal and State Authority
This paper explores the potential for federal and/or state regulation of gasoline octane levels. At the federal level EPA is authorized to regulate the components and/or characteristics of gasoline under section 211 of the Clean Air Act. Pursuant to that section, EPA may regulate octane if evidence before it demonstrates that switching to high octane gasoline is necessary to achieve vehicle carbon dioxide emissions standards (i.e., adopted under section 202 of the Clean Air Act) or would significantly reduce the costs of achieving those standards. If EPA promulgates regulations, or publishes a finding that regulation is unnecessary, state regulatory action will be pre-empted. There is, however, an exception for California which may adopt its own regulations regardless of any action by EPA. Regulations adopted by California are not subject to review and/or approval by EPA. The regulations only apply in California and cannot be adopted by other states, in preference to federal regulations, as is permitted with respect to vehicle emission standards.
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