May 2006

 

Waivers to ease Philadelphia-area gasoline shortage requested

Harrisburg, PA— Prompted by gasoline supply shortages in the five-county Philadelphia area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties), Governor Edward G. Rendell requested that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issue a temporary waiver that would allow gasoline suppliers to sell fuel that does not meet federal Clean Air Act reformulated gasoline guidelines.

“We have information indicating that a major gasoline supplier in the Philadelphia area is reporting more than 160 ‘delivery-needed’ alarms, and many more fuel outlets reporting that supplies are nearly exhausted,” Governor Rendell wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Steven L. Johnson. “In light of the circumstances, the requested waiver is clearly necessary to serve the public interest.”

The gasoline shortages apparently have been caused by problems associated with terminals making the switch between “winterblend” gasoline and reformulated blends that help curb summertime ground-level ozone pollution. In addition, refiners have precipitously stopped using the octane enhancer methyl-tertiary-butyl-ether (MTBE) exacerbating fuel shortage problems since MTBE had constituted about 10 percent of gasoline.

“A short waiver will protect the public without meaningfully polluting the air. We need the federal government to act to help get us through what otherwise will be a very difficult situation,” said Governor Rendell.

Three major petroleum refineries in the Philadelphia area refine almost 700,000 barrels of crude oil daily into gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil, not only for the commonwealth, but also for the entire East Coast.

The 1990 federal Clean Air Act amendments created the federal reformulated gasoline program in order to improve air quality in the nation’s worst ozone nonattainment areas. The federal program requires specially formulated gasoline blends that ensure significant reductions of ground-level ozone forming pollution when it is used in our vehicles.

In Pennsylvania, the reformulated gasoline program is federally mandated in the city of Philadelphia and in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery and counties. These counties were originally designated as a “severe” nonattainment area for the old one-hour ozone national ambient air quality standard and are currently in “moderate” nonattainment for the new eight-hour ozone standard.

 


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