Gasoline in Utah must be reformulated during summer months by 1992 to reduce pollution - which should increase costs about a penny a gallon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.
But last-minute pressure by Utah's congressional delegation helped convince the EPA not to single out the state with the most stringent gasoline volatility requirements anywhere.A letter released by the delegation said the EPA had proposed a 7.0 pounds per square inch volatility rating for gasoline in Utah from June through September, but the final regulation announced Friday will require a less stringent 7.8 psi rating instead.
The current requirement in Utah is 9.0 psi during warm months. Most other states are also being forced to make similar changes.
The changes are designed to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds that evaporate from car gasoline tanks during warm weather. Such compounds are a major cause of ground-level ozone and smog.
Vehicles are equipped with controls to capture such emissions, but rising gasoline volatility levels from the addition of more butane in recent years has made those systems unable to keep up during warm months when the evaporation is worst.
A letter that the congressional delegation sent to EPA Administrator William K. Reilly last month successfully urged his agency to re-think plans to give Utah a tougher gasoline regulation than other states, claiming EPA had not been consistent among states in its rulemaking.
"Unlike other states, Utah would be required to make not only a second but also a third step in volatility reduction," their letter complained. "Conversely, El Paso, Texas - which has a comparable elevation to Salt Lake City but experiences hotter temperatures and far worse ozone violations - would be required only the second step reduction."
The letter added, "While we understand less atmospheric pressure at higher elevations warrants a lower volatility standard, temperature - not elevation - is the major factor determine gasoline volatility. . . We strongly believe a change in the final rule is warranted."
The letter was signed by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn and Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson, all R-Utah, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah.
In announcing stricter rules for the states Friday, Reilly said the change should decrease volatile organic compounds by almost 7 percent nationally.
The changes will not take effect until 1992 to give refiners time to re-tool and provide adequate supplies. The EPA estimates the change will increase the cost of gasoline about a penny per gallon.
The EPA said refiners will spend about $464 million nationally to comply with the new national standards. It said the cost will be partially offset from an expected $234 million in benefits to consumers from increased fuel economy and from less gasoline loss through evaporation.