Science & Technology
5:45 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Summer Gas Bill Moves To Governor's Desk

With summer now in full swing, the State Senate has agreed to amendments made by the House to the Federal Clean Air Act in relation to compliance with requirements for low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline, more commonly known as "summer gas." The legislation aims to make gasoline cheaper for motorists in western Pennsylvania.

Michael Rader, Executive Director to the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said the original goal was to do away with the high-cost gasoline.

"The bill we started with was to repeal the requirement for the Pittsburgh summer gas in the seven county area. We wanted to completely get rid of that. It costs the citizens out there about 30 to 40 cents more per gallon than in the Harrisburg area," Rader said. According to GasBuddy, the average gas price in Harrisburg is $3.23, while the average price in Pittsburgh is $3.42.

According to Senate Bill 1386, if a supply disruption occurs, the governor must submit a request to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waive the requirements for summer gas. A supply disruption is defined as 5% of all existing gasoline retailers in the Pittsburgh region unable to obtain an adequate supply of RVP gas.

Rader said that is exactly what is happening now. "The requirement out there is low RVP gasoline. There's none of that available. What the Pittsburgh area is forced to use since that is not available is reformulated gasoline," Rader said. This type of gas burns more cleanly, but it can lower fuel economy and engine performance and is most commonly used in cities with air pollution problems.

Despite claims of a shortage of RVP gas, the Petroleum Retailers and Auto Repair Association in western Pennsylvania said there have been no outstanding reports of a shortage of the gasoline, but this time of year is always stressful as retailers make the switch from "winter gas" to "summer gas."

With the new changes, Senate Bill 1386 will require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct meetings to consult with organizations that will be impacted by the amendments, such as gasoline refining and distribution companies, gasoline retailers, pipeline owners, public utilities and local governments.

The bill also eliminates Stage II vapor recovery systems on fuel pumps at gas stations. Rader said this technology can be counterproductive.

"The gas pumps have technology, which is Stage II, and the vehicles have the technology, which is the vapor recovery canisters. Well, both systems working together actually release more gasoline vapors than either system alone," Rader said.

Once the bill is signed by the governor, it takes effect immediately.