Stephen Barlas: EPA soot rule to boost sales

This article was written by Stephen Barlas and originally appeared on the website. Read the original article here.
The big story in auto emissions has been greenhouse gases (GHGs) from tailpipes. The latest chapter was written on August 28 when the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation finalized Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards for 2016-2025. The August announcement by the White House was expected, and the final rule from EPA and DOT was based on an agreement between environmental groups and auto manufacturers reached one year ago. So there were no big surprises here.

But there is another auto industry air emissions rulemaking percolating at the EPA, and it has received very little attention. Revisions to the “soot” standard may have a considerable impact on auto emissions, but in a way that could benefit the aftermarket. Issued at the end of June in proposal form, and six years in the making (federal court action has delayed this rulemaking considerably) the “soot” standard would limit emissions of particles of dust, which pick up chemicals in the air and become, in the agency’s jargon, “particulate matter” (PM).
It is quite possible the EPA could publish a final rule before the November election. The agency wants to tighten the two-part PM standards: there are primary and secondary standards for PM2.5 (refers to particles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers in diameter) and the same for PM10. Primary standards are meant to protect human health. Secondary standards protect the environment.
States, cities and counties have to monitor their air to insure it meets the PM2.5-10 standards. If the air fails to meet the standard, localities must take certain steps, and these can and do include such things as inaugurating or upgrading auto inspection and maintenance programs. That would be a boon to the aftermarket.
There is another potential impact, also positive. The air toxins that can attach themselves to pieces of floating dust are mostly metals. The EPA cites copper and zinc from brake pads as one example. Zinc is also used as a filler in tires. Burning engine oil produces particles containing metals. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) escape through tailpipes in the exhaust. Any substantial tightening of the PM2.5-10 standard could force states, cities and counties to require “greener” components, which, again, would be probably positive for the aftermarket.
Anyone familiar with EPA air emission rulemaking knows they are exceedingly complicated technically. In this instance, the agency is proposing two major changes. First, it wants to tighten the primary annual standard for PM2.5 by lowering the level from 15.0 to within a range of 12.0 to 13.0 [mu]g/m3. There is also a primary standard for 24-hours, and that is 35 [mu]g/m3).
There is also a secondary standard for PM2.5 particles, which relates to visibility impairment. That is where the second big change may take place. The EPA is proposing to add a distinct secondary standard for PM2.5 to address PM-related visibility impairment. More specifically, the EPA proposes to establish a secondary standard defined in terms of a PM2.5 visibility index. The EPA also proposes to rely upon the existing Chemical Speciation Network (CSN) to provide appropriate monitoring data for calculating PM2.5 visibility index values.
George Wolff, principal scientist at Air Improvement Resources, has testified before the EPA on behalf of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He was for many years the Principal Scientist, General Motors Public Policy Center. But he was also Chairman of the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, so he sees these kinds of issues from two sides. “Both the revised primary standard and the new secondary standard for PM2.5 would put a lot of areas out of attainment,” Wolff says. “States will be clamoring for reductions of emissions from all sorts of sources. They will be looking at everything, including upgrading existing or starting new inspection and maintenance programs for vehicles.”

Written by CCAR