EPA Revokes Oxygen Content Requirement For Reformulated Gasoline

In a move agency officials said would provide greater flexibility in producing clean-burning gasoline to protect and improve air quality, EPA has announced it is removing a mandate for states to add corn-based ethanol or methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) to gasoline.

On Feb. 15, EPA announced that it is revoking the two percent oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG) nationwide. RFG is gasoline blended to burn cleaner and reduce smog-forming and toxic pollutants, and is required by the Clean Air Act in cities with the worst smog pollution. MTBE and ethanol are the two most commonly used substances that add oxygen to gasoline. Currently, about 30 percent of gasoline is RFG.

EPA denied California, New York and Connecticut's requests for a waiver of the requirement, finding that the states had not shown that using an oxygenate had prevented with their ability to meet to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for clean air (see http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg_regs.htm#waiver). After banning MTBE in response to concerns over groundwater contamination, the states had to use ethanol, which they claimed interfered with their ability to meet clean air requirements.

EPA officials said that the Energy Policy Act authorized the agency's action to remove the requirement. The revocation takes effect nationwide on May 6 and in California 60 days after the regulation's publication in the Federal Register.

According to agency estimates, oxygenate additives increase the price for RFG 4 cents to 8 cents per gallon over conventional gasoline.

More information EPA's action can be found at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg_regs.htm. Additional information on RFG can be found at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/rfg.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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