Lower summer gas prices expected in Allegheny County after regulation change | TribLIVE.com

Lower summer gas prices expected in Allegheny County after regulation change

Jamie Martines

Drivers buying gas in Allegheny County this summer could see lower prices at the pump thanks to a regulatory change at the state level.

As of Dec. 20, seven counties in Pennsylvania — Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland — are no longer required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to sell a more expensive summer blend of gasoline intended to help reduce pollution during the hotter months of May through September.

Unlike the other six counties impacted by the change, Allegheny County manages its own air quality program. That’s why a local council vote was needed to officially strike the summer blend rule and defer to the relaxed state standards.

Allegheny County Council made the change official following a unanimous vote in favor of removing the requirement at a meeting Tuesday.

“Thank you to County Council for their quick action on this legislation,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement. “This step ensures that the price of gas in Allegheny County is the same as in our surrounding counties.”

Pennsylvania is one of many states to see this regulatory change in recent years as most newer, on-road vehicles and gas pumps are designed to better manage and reduce emissions, said Jim Kelly, Allegheny County Health Department deputy director of environmental health.

The local request still has to go back to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for approval as a formality, Kelly said.

Since the requirement has already been removed at the state level, Kelly said he does not expect any enforcement on the old requirement while the paperwork is being completed, which could take several weeks.

But some fuel suppliers have expressed concern that they could still end up being held to the old rules if the regulatory process doesn’t wrap up by May 1, when the summer blend would need to be ready for sale at the pump, said Ted Harris, director of marketing at the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association, a trade group representing the petroleum industry and those providing related products and services.

“There’s a whole process that plays out,” Harris said, explaining that the summer blend preparation process must start by early March in order to produce the fuel and ready the tanks by May 1, when sales of summer blend gas would be required to start. “It’s not a faucet that you can just turn on and off.”

Not having to produce or distribute the more costly fuel blend is what passes a savings on to the consumer, and suppliers wouldn’t have any incentive to continue offering the summer blend only to Allegheny County when Ohio, West Virginia and the rest of Pennsylvania are allowed to use the same fuel all year long, Harris said.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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