Senator Elder Vogel and Senator Tim Solobay today announced legislation designed to make gasoline cheaper for western Pennsylvanians.
Specifically, the legislation would remove a costly and burdensome regulation requiring a special “boutique” blend of gasoline from being sold in the seven county Pittsburgh-area of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties during the summer months. This “summer gas” is routinely more expensive than gasoline sold in the rest of Pennsylvania and also in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia.
Siince 1999, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, through Pennsylvania’s State Implementation Plan (SIP), have required that gasoline sold between June 1st and September 15th must have a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) of 7.8psi. Regular gasoline has an RVP of 9.0. Further, in 2007 a new federal rule required that all gasoline must contain ethanol, which acts to raise the RVP of gasoline, making it counterproductive to the RVP mandate intended to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). All of this combines to make the seven county Pittsburgh-area a more expensive place to purchase gasoline and susceptible to volatile price swings even as a result of minor supply interruptions. According to a study performed by Kevin J. Lindemer LLC, the already higher gasoline prices in Western Pennsylvania could become dramatically higher as a result of the potential closing of three refineries in the Philadelphia area.
“Our legislation is a commonsense, bipartisan proposal that would finally end an unfair and costly regulation on the people of western Pennsylvania,” Vogel said. “This regulation is nothing more than a hidden tax, not only at the pump but also in the goods and services we use.”
“With the shutdown of the refineries in southeast Pennsylvania, consumers and small businesses will be placed in a bind this summer with much higher costs and likely gas shortages in western Pennsylvania,” Solobay said. “It’s time we eliminate this costly summer gas requirement.”
In addition, the legislation will allow for the termination of another regulation requiring gas stations in the same seven county region in Pittsburgh, as well as the five county region of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, to install Stage II vapor recovery systems on fuel pumps. These pumps prevent the release of gasoline vapors when in use, but the law contains a specific provision to eliminate the requirement if onboard refueling emissions controls in vehicles became widespread. Since 2000, all passenger cars and light trucks have been required to be manufactured to include onboard refueling emissions controls. These controls work by stopping gasoline vapors from coming back out the fill pipe by circulating the vapors back into the fuel tank.
Recently, a study by the California Air Resources Board found having both systems in place causes a significant reduction in the ability to capture fuel vapors over the effectiveness of either system alone*. Stage II systems are maintenance intensive and cost service station owners thousands of dollars annually to maintain. In addition, service stations now in the process of modernizing or building new facilities are faced with the prospect of installing Stage II systems that may be declared unnecessary in just a few months. This is a heavy financial burden that is ultimately paid for by higher prices at the pump. The legislation would remove this now redundant and environmentally counterproductive requirement and reduce the financial burden on thousands of motorists and small businesses in southwestern Pennsylvania.
This legislation was introduced as Senate Bill 1386 and has 40 cosponsors.
Mike Rader (Vogel): (717) 787-3076
Hannah Walsh (Solobay) (717) 787-1463
*California Air Resources Board Staff Report, “Enhanced Vapor Recovery Technology Review,” October 2002