Marketplace: Petroleum 101: "We did that [SS: relaxing environmental requirements on gasoline to lower prices] right after Katrina, and the people in St. Louis noticed brown skies and more pollution. So the tradeoff you'd make is 50 cents at retail, and putting up with some brown skies."
It seems to me the hangup with gas and environmental regs is not that they (regs & requirements) exist; it's that they vary from region to region, eliminating flexibility for suppliers to react to localized shortages. This reflects the overall environmental regulatory environment (pardon the pun) in which so much of the burden stems from inconsistent requirements state-by-state, not the actual requirements themselves.
Remember, anything leaving a plant as pollution is something that either came in as a raw material and is not being sold for a profit or was generated as a byproduct at an energy or efficiency cost to the manufacturer. It's been my experience most industry recognizes this, and recognizes it's in their own best financial interests to minimize pollution. Consistent requirements would certainly help. Instead, you get a system that changes with each state, with a tendency towards EPA and state agencies adopting bad cop/good cop roles, respectively.
Sorry for the tangential rant, it's just that I see this all the time at work, where environmentally-beneficial and berueacratically-efficient solutions are, unfortunately, often at odds.