EPA Updates Clean Air Act Requirements for Gas Stations to Reflect New Vehicle Technologies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the systems used at gas station pumps to capture harmful gasoline vapors while refueling cars can be phased out. Modern vehicles are equipped to capture those emissions. This final rule is part of the Obama Administration's initiative to ensure that regulations protect public health and the environment without being unnecessarily burdensome to American businesses.

Beginning later this year, states may begin the process of phasing out vapor recovery systems at the pump since approximately 70 percent of all vehicles are equipped with on-board systems that capture these vapors. This final rule will ensure that air quality and public health are protected while potentially saving the approximately 31,000 affected gas stations located in mostly urban areas more than $3,000 each year when fully implemented.

Since 1994, gas stations in areas that do not meet certain air quality standards have been required to use gasoline vapor recovery systems. The systems capture fumes that escape from gasoline tanks during refueling. However, as required by the Clean Air Act, automobile manufacturers began installing onboard refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) technologies in 1998, making gas stations' systems increasingly redundant. Since 2006, all new automobiles and light trucks (pickups, vans and SUVs) are equipped with ORVR systems.

Gasoline vapors from refueling, if allowed to escape, can contribute significantly to ground-level ozone, sometimes called smog, as well as to other types of harmful air pollution. Breathing air containing high levels of smog can reduce lung function and increase respiratory symptoms, aggravating asthma or other respiratory conditions and other health conditions. Gasoline vapors also contain toxic air pollutants associated with a variety of health threats.

This final rule responds to public comments on EPA's July 2011 proposal, and will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register.

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