Community Issues

Sticker Shock Hits Gas Prices in Allegheny County

Delay in exempting county from summer blend gasoline means prices will go even higher


The headline in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is enough to strike fear into the hearts of gas station owners in Allegheny County and cause annoyance to simmer in their customers: Want to save on gas? Just fill up outside Allegheny County

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Gas prices in the region have already gone up 10-cents a gallon or more almost overnight

Gas prices in Allegheny County will soon become significantly higher than surrounding counties because the Environmental Protection Agency hasn't yet signed off on an exemption that would allow the county to continue to use regular blend gasoline instead of the more expensive low-RVP or "summer blend" gasoline.

Gas stations like this one in Ross could see customers driving to neighboring counties to fill up if Allegheny County is the only county using summer blend gasoline

No other county in the state is required to use summer blend, and Ohio and West Virginia are also exempt. That means come June 1, Allegheny County could become an island where gas is 30-50 cents more expensive than surrounding communities. So people near the county line could enjoy significant savings by simply driving from, say Monroeville to Murrysville. That's potentially inconvenient for gas customers, but could be disastrous for retailers. Understand how we got to this point by reading our previous stories:

The current crisis is really just an expensive bunch of red tape. Allegheny County won't enforce the requirement to use summer blend, but gasoline distributors say the oil companies won't take that chance and will continue to make and ship it. "If the major oil companies don't see some action from the EPA, they will continue to deliver summer blend," John Kulik, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association told the P-G.

Oil companies technically don't have to make and ship summer blend gas, but they're going to, until the EPA signs off

Even if the EPA approves the change for Allegheny County in the next few weeks, it would probably take another month to sell off the summer blend that's already being delivered, which means higher prices into the start of summer driving season.

"Now you have Allegheny County out there on an island. It's a very big mess." Don Bowers, Countywide Petroleum

Even as bureaucrats deal with this issue, gas prices in the region have already gone up 10-cents a gallon or more in the past week. The website Gas Buddy says most gas is $3.10 a gallon in Allegheny and surrounding counties, especially in areas where Giant Eagle's Get Go and Sheetz convenience stores compete to keep prices lower. But elsewhere, we've seen prices as high as $3.15 a gallon.

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