Gas Could Cost A Lot More in Allegheny County May 1st
Regulators are running out of time to approve a change that could mean 50-cents more a gallon for gas -- or not -- in the next few months for Allegheny County drivers.
It looks like drivers in Allegheny County aren't home-free when it comes to using more expensive summer blend gasoline this year. As we reported last week (click here) Allegheny County Council approved removing the requirement to use so-called low-RVP gasoline in Allegheny County as part of the county's clean air quality efforts. All of the other counties in the state already had the restrictions removed, but Allegheny County Council had to take action here because the county has its own air quality program.
Now there's a new potential problem, says Ted Harris, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association. The county's action still needs to be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which then has to submit an application to the federal Environmental Protection Agency on the county's behalf. That won't happen overnight. "There is still a regulatory process that has to play out," explained Harris. "It's a timing challenge."
The EPA has a May 1st deadline to approve the county's application to beat the date to start using summer blend gas. Even if they do make the deadline, Harris says that's still much too late for companies that manufacture low-RVP gas. If the EPA hasn't ruled by mid-March, Harris says those companies will start making and shipping summer blend, and drivers in Allegheny County will have to keep using it until that initial supply runs out. "It's not a faucet when it comes to this," said Harris. "There's a whole supply chain that has to happen. Companies are going to be starting that step very shortly."
"We're going to keep on hoping for the best." Ted Harris, Pennsylvania Petroleum Association
Not only could this mean drivers in Allegheny County will have to pay up to 50 cents more a gallon for gas than people in surrounding counties, it could be disastrous for service station owners who might see their customers flee to pumps outside the county. "If I was a gasoline retailer on the Allegheny County line, it would be catastrophic to my business." said Harris.
While Harris predicts the EPA will eventually approve Allegheny County's application, he won't be surprised if the timing on this means consumers in the county will have to pump summer gas for at least a few weeks or even a month beginning May 1st. "What we're trying to do at the association level is to express this urgency to continue to move this regulatory process forward."
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