Environment & Energy
9:20 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Bill to Do Away With 'Summer Gas' in Pittsburgh Passes Senate

A bill pending in the state Senate would do away with requirements for "summer gas" in several southwestern PA counties.
Credit Jenn Durfey / Flickr

The Pennsylvania state Senate has passed a bill that would amend the Air Pollution Control Act to eliminate the requirements for summer blend gasoline in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene and Washington Counties.

The gas blend is used in the warmer months to cut down on vehicle emissions, but Sen. Tim Solobay said since the use of “summer gas” was mandated in 1998, cars have become more fuel efficient. The Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) said that is true, but doesn’t mean the gas blend is unnecessary.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania and much of the northeastern United States struggle to meet federal health-based standards for ozone for a number of years,” said GASP Legal Director Joe Osborne. “The summer gas requirement is one of the most common sense and cost-effective ways to reduce ozone emissions in the area.”

Ozone is formed from the chemical reactions of other compounds (such as those emitted from vehicles) and sunlight, which is why higher concentrations are seen in the summer. Even newer, more fuel-efficient cars still emit exhaust, so Osborne says continuing the use of summer gas will still reap benefits.

“Depending on exactly which numbers you use, we’re talking hundreds of tons of VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions reductions during the ozone season,” he said.

Ground level ozone is what we breathe and according the federal Environmental Protection Agency can be harmful to peoples’ health, even at relatively low levels. People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors may be affected by ozone. 

But Solobay said another factor at play is gas prices. The summer blend brings the average cost of a gallon of gasoline up 10 to 15 cents compared to areas without the summer blend. GASP’s Osborne said that is true, and added the organization is aware that could be frustrating for consumers.

“Gas is expensive,” he said. “Filling up your tank can be expensive, but it’s a bit more complicated than saying ‘gas is more expensive per gallon in the summer,’ because really what matters is not the amount, how many gallons you can put in your tank, it’s how far it gets you.”

And Osborne said cars generally get better fuel mileage using the summer blend.

The bill now awaits action in the House.

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