Colorado Petroleum Distributors to Pay $2.5 Million For Illegally Mixing, Distributing Gasoline

EPA and the U.S. Justice Department announced a settlement with Rocky Mountain Pipeline System LLC, Western Convenience Stores Inc., and Offen Petroleum Inc. to resolve claims that they illegally mixed and distributed more than 1 million gallons of gasoline that did not meet Clean Air Act emissions and fuel quality requirements.

The companies will pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and conduct an environmental project designed to offset the harm caused by their failure to meet federal gasoline quality requirements. Gasoline that does not meet Clean Air Act standards for fuel can result in increased emissions from car tailpipes, which can harm Americans’ health, affect vehicle performance, and in some cases can damage engines and emission controls.

"Complying with the Clean Air Act’s fuel regulations is critical toensuring that our nation’s important emissions standards are met,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today’s settlement shows that EPA is committed to protecting the air we breathe by reducing illegal air pollution."

“Providing and distributing gasoline that fails to meet the Clean Air Act standards for fuel can have serious consequences for human health and the environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.  “This settlement appropriately requires that the distributors undertake a project that will result in major annual reductions in emissions of volatile organic compounds in order to offset any harm they may have caused.”

The companies produced millions of gallons of illegal gasoline by mixing natural gasoline, a byproduct of natural gas production, and ethanol with gasoline previously certified to meet Clean Air Act requirements at two terminals in Colorado. The Clean Air Act allows refiners to produce gasoline by adding other fuel sources to previously certified gasoline; however, the blended gasoline must still meet applicable emissions and fuel standards including compliance with sampling, testing, and quality assurance requirements.

The companies’ gasoline blending operations may have resulted in more than 10 tons of excess emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can produce smog or ground level ozone. Human exposure to ozone can cause lung damage, aggravate asthma, and cause difficulty breathing. EPA sets gasoline standards to reduce air pollutants from motor vehicles, such as VOCs, particulate matter and toxic air pollutants, because they contribute to serious public health and environmental problems. To offset any excess emissions, the companies will install a geodesic dome cover on a gasoline storage tank at one of the terminals where the fuel blending took place. The cover is expected to reduce VOC emissions by more than 8.6 tons annually.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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