Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Casey To EPA: As Gas Prices Spike, Consider Pittsburgh Summer Gasoline Waiver

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) Friday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider granting a temporary waiver for Pennsylvania for summer gasoline blend requirements, which would help alleviate supply constraints and combat skyrocketing prices at the pump.
            Today on the same issue, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer  sent a letter to EPA Region III Administrator Shawn M. Garvin saying DEP is "closely following the low RVP gasoline situation and we are in the process of evaluating alternative supply options for this summer in light of the three refinery closures in southeastern Pennsylvania."
            “In dealing with rising gas prices, the Pittsburgh region faces the additional challenge of a requirement to use a special kind of gasoline in the summer months,” Sen. Casey said. “During this difficult economic time and because of potential supply shortages that could further increase prices, the EPA should consider a waiver that will give consumers in southwest Pennsylvania a break at the pump this summer.” 
            Standing at a Citgo station, Sen. Casey made the case that the EPA should consider granting  a waiver that would temporarily release the seven-county Pittsburgh region from the requirement to use a special gasoline blend during the summer months, if the Commonwealth requests it. 
            Supplies of the blend are limited and shortages could be exacerbated by decreased refining capacity, Sen. Casey wrote in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. These supply shortages could further increase the price at the pump and burden consumers at a time when the economy needs a sustained boost.
            While there is no quick fix to the issue of rising gas prices, Sen. Casey has laid out a series of common-sense steps to combat the problem, including:
-- Pushing legislation to give the U.S. tools to crack down on collusive practices of oil producing countries;
-- Urging the Administration to quickly enact strong rules to eliminate excessive oil speculation, which jacks up the price of gasoline; and
-- Boosting Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry to support energy independence and encourage the use of natural gas as an alternative fuel, reducing demand for gasoline.
            A copy of the letter Casey wrote is available online.
            DEP Letter To EPA
            In today's letter to EPA, DEP Secretary Krancer expressed the hope EPA "will exercise appropriate discretion and latitude with respect to any requests which may come from Gov Corbett this summer for a waiver of the low RVP gasoline requirement..." for the seven county Western Pennsylvania region that includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
            Secretary Krancer pointed out a recent report by the Federal Energy Information Administration outlined the potential for gasoline supply shortages and significant price increases as a result of the closing of three Pennsylvania refineries which together produce as much as one-third of the low RVP gasoline the Pittsburgh area needs to comply with federal ozone air pollution standards.
            A separate earlier report issued in January by the PA Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association came to similar conclusions: the closure of the refineries would result in much higher prices for gasoline in Pittsburgh if not shortages of fuel complying with the RVP standards.
            In his letter, Secretary Krancer raised the potential of substituting summer reformulated gasoline (RFG) as a replacement for low RVP gasoline in Pittsburgh.  RFG is required by federal law in the Philadelphia area and other major urban areas along the east coast.
            That option would still mean the seven-county Pittsburgh Region would be an island with a unique gasoline blend requirement not shared with any other area within hundreds of miles.
            Gasoline prices in recent weeks in Pittsburgh have already been as much as 38 cents a gallon higher than the same gasoline right across the border in Ohio.
            Legislative Action
            In early March, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1386 sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) and Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) to set aside the low RVP fuel requirement for Pittsburgh in the face of the significant supply issues coming to light.
            The bill is now in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee chaired by Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango).

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