updated 6/2/2005 3:13:11 PM ET 2005-06-02T19:13:11

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered three populous states — California, New York and Connecticut — to continue using air pollution-reducing gasoline additives. The decision Thursday helps the ethanol industry at a cost of up to 8 cents a gallon in pump prices.

The states had asked the EPA to waive a 1990 requirement in the Clean Air Act that gasoline contain an oxygenate to help fight air pollution. They argued they could meet federal air standards without the oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson decided the states failed to show that using an oxygenate has prevented or interfered with their ability to meet federal air standards, agency officials said.

Security, farm factors considered
But the agency also said in a statement that it considered other factors, including “increased energy security and support for rural and agricultural economies.”

On average, using additives increases the price for gasoline by 4 to 8 cents per gallon, EPA estimates. But the benefits include at least 100,000 tons per year fewer smog pollutants nationally — equivalent to the tailpipe emissions of 16 million vehicles.

Federal clean-air law requires that the gasoline used in certain metropolitan areas with the worst smog contain 2 percent oxygen by weight. It doesn’t specify which oxygenate must be used, but most refiners use either ethanol or methyl tertiary butyl ether, known as MTBE.

Only corn-based ethanol is used in California, New York and Connecticut, because those states banned the use of MTBE, which has been found to pollute groundwater.

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