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Pump inspections lag, state audit finds

| Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007

Small budgets and inadequate staffs have prevented state and county inspectors from checking gas pumps as often as the law requires, according to a state Auditor General report issued Tuesday.

Investigators found no evidence of gas stations defrauding customers, but the chances of drivers getting cheated increases the longer a gas pump goes uninspected, Auditor General Jack Wagner said. State law requires every gas pump in Pennsylvania be inspected annually, but Wagner's investigation found pumps at 21 percent of state-inspected gas stations and 13 percent of county-inspected gas stations went more than a year without being checked.

Allegheny County's three inspectors checked each of the 10,000 gas pumps in the county last year, county spokesman Kevin Evanto said.

"State law requires 100 percent of the dispensers to be inspected each year, and we send all our inspection records to Harrisburg on a monthly basis," Evanto said.

The report urged the General Assembly to require gas quality checks to make sure customers get the octane rating for which they pay. Pennsylvania is one of only four states that doesn't verify octane ratings during inspections.

Wagner sent Gov. Ed Rendell a copy of the report Dec. 18, according to the report. Two days later, Rendell announced plans to hire 22 inspectors, more than doubling the complement of 17 inspectors and three supervisors.

"That'll get us out of a lot of trouble," said Rick Fogal, supervisor for state inspectors in Western Pennsylvania. "It looks like we're going to be in good shape."

A 1996 state law allowed counties to dump their weights and measures bureaus and hand inspection duties to the state. Until Rendell's action, however, the department wasn't allowed to hire more inspectors, even as the bureau's area of responsibility grew from seven to 44 counties.

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