WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sport utility vehicles will have to meet the same emissions standards as cars starting in 2004.
For the first time, cars and light trucks -- including SUVs, minivans and pickups -- will all be required to meet the same strict emissions standards under new regulations announced last year by the Environmental Protection Agency.
About half the vehicles sold now are light trucks, and they produce three to five times as much pollution as the average passenger car.
With more cars on the road each year driving more miles, the president said in December that tougher air quality measures were needed to keep air quality from worsening.
The standards are meant to address pollution in the coming decades, cutting auto pollution by three-quarters.
Auto emissions of nitrogen oxides, a key component of smog, will be cut by 74 percent, and soot will be reduced by 80 percent by 2030 when the car and light truck fleet has fully turned over in the United States.
That is the equivalent of removing 164 million cars from the road, the EPA says.
By 2009, new light trucks would be up to 95 percent cleaner and cars would be 77 percent cleaner than they are today, EPA Administrator Carol Browner says.
The new requirement of nitrogen oxides emissions of 0.07 grams per mile would be phased in from 2004 to 2007 for cars while the phase-in for light trucks would extend two more years to allow the largest SUVs more time to comply.
However, all light trucks would have to meet today's standard for nitrogen oxides for cars by 2004, which is 0.6 grams per mile.
The changes would prevent thousands of asthma attacks and respiratory illnesses nationwide, EPA officials say.
The EPA estimated the changes would add about $200 to the price of a light truck and $100 to a new car.
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