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Beginning Nov. 1, residents of Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties will be required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use oxygenated gasoline in their automobiles.

But the state isn't going to cooperate.The Utah Division of Air Quality is planning to postpone the "oxy-fuels" program another year, pending a request to the EPA for a per-ma-nent waiver of the requirement.

"We feel fairly comfortable that (the waiver) is going to happen," said Ursula Trueman, the division's air-quality branch manager. "We're confident that EPA will see it our way."

Federal air-quality rules require counties that have violated the federal standard for carbon-monoxide pollution to use oxyfuels during the winter months. Oxyfuels, a blend of gasoline and ethanol, make engines burn "cleaner."

Utah County, whose CO problem is fueled by Geneva Steel, has been using oxygenated fuels for the past two years and will be required to continue using them this winter. In the winter of 1992-93, oxyfuels may have helped reduce CO levels in Utah County by as much as 20 percent.

Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties were required to begin using the fuels last year, but the state asked the EPA for a waiver, arguing that those counties' CO problem is improving and that the use of oxyfuels could actually worsen another, more serious pollution problem: fine particulates, also known as PM10.

According to division records, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber have not violated the CO standard since 1990, yet Salt Lake County violated the PM10 standard nine times in 1992.

Some studies have suggested that when oxyfuels are burned, they emit nitrogen oxides, which are a precursor to PM10.

However, the EPA is not convinced. New studies revealed by the EPA last summer show that oxyfuels can actually decrease nitrates, thereby reducing PM10 pollution.

Trueman said the state hopes a study this winter in Utah County will show definitively whether the burning of oxyfuels affects PM10.

Although Utah is confident the EPA will grant a waiver, if it doesn't, the state could face sanctions and fines for not having implemented the oxyfuel program in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties last year. Those sanctions include the potential loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.


Additional Information

Hearing on fuels

A public hearing on Utah's proposal to postpone its use of oxygenated fuels in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 1:30 p.m. at the Department of Environmental Quality, 168 N. 1950 West, Room 201.