THE United States Environmental Protection Agency, ending a seven-year battle with the American auto industry, is requiring that new cars be equipped with canisters to capture toxic, smog-producing gasoline fumes during refueling.
The action, announced Jan. 24 by EPA Administrator Carol Browner, came after a federal court rejected a 1992 attempt by the Bush administration to counter pollution by requiring service stations to install special nozzles on gasoline pumps.
The EPA estimated the canisters, expected to be about the size of a coffee can, will add $10 to the price of a vehicle. But automakers have said costs could be closer to $50 a car. Although designs may change, the captured fumes would be held in the canister and rerouted within the fuel system.
Ms. Browner said in an interview that the canisters will reduce smog-causing volatile organic compounds by 95 percent and capture thousands of tons of toxic emissions such as benzene that are normal components of gasoline.
``This is a huge step forward.... It's hard to point to another rule that will be as significant for as many people,'' she said.
The canisters will have to be phased in over three years beginning with 1998 model cars. Vans, specialty vehicles, and small trucks will be given an additional three years to comply. Browner said she considers the on-board canisters a much better system for controlling refueling emissions since it will cover automobiles in use nationwide.