If Ohio tests for bad fuel, Southwest Ohio officials will have made it happen

Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, speaks in February 2020 about a bill to allow counties to test for fuel quality. She reintroduced a similar bill in February 2021 with Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., and Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., right, introduced an identical bill with Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, in the Senate. Kelly and Lang, when both were in the Ohio House, introduced HB 499 in 2020 but it stalled. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE
Rep. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, speaks in February 2020 about a bill to allow counties to test for fuel quality. She reintroduced a similar bill in February 2021 with Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., and Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., right, introduced an identical bill with Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, in the Senate. Kelly and Lang, when both were in the Ohio House, introduced HB 499 in 2020 but it stalled. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

If Ohio ends up with a law to test for fuel quality, southwest Ohio officials will have played a larger part.

Ohio Reps. Brigid Kelly, D-Cincinnati, and Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp. — as well as Ohio Sens. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati — are the four joint sponsors to a pair of identical bills in the Ohio House and Senate. The issue is also being pushed by county auditors, like Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds and Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes.

“It only makes sense that southwest Ohio, or any community of significant population that borders a state, would take the lead on this issue,” said Lang.

House Bill 144 and Senate Bill 71 were introduced in February and would, among other things, test the quality of fuel, such as octane levels and existence of sediment and water. It would also test for federal fuel standards for conventional, biodiesel, blended biodiesel and ethanol extended fuels.

Lang and Kelly pushed a similar bill last year, but House Bill 499 stalled.

Butler County is the seventh-largest county in the state, and lawmakers here should be at the table discussing statewide issues, especially when they impact the county’s estimated 383,000 residents, said county auditor Roger Reynolds.

“Over the years, there has been a feeling that there hasn’t been a lot of representational or a voice from Butler County up in Columbus,” he said. “What I see going forward is our representatives both on the Senate and House sides are stepping up. They’re pulling together and talking with a larger voice, and I think that’s been a needed change.”

Reynolds said his office usually receives consumer complaints because they’re looking for answers to why they’re needing costly engine repairs, and his name is on the pumps.

“They’re asking the exact same question I’m asking, ‘Why isn’t someone checking fuel quality?’ We’re checking quantity, we’re there at the stations, we’re making those types of checks for the consumers, but I think getting good fuel quality is just as important as quantity,” Reynolds said.

Freshman lawmaker Hall said fuel quality is an issue that didn’t get taken care of in the 133 General Assembly and Reynolds, Hall and his fellow lawmakers “felt it was important to re-introduce this bill.”

“It goes back to local control,” said Hall, whose district has been directly affected by bad gas. “We got to make sure, from a consumer protection standpoint, that when people are filling up their gas they are getting what they’re paying for.”

Ohio, Alaska and Nebraska are the only states that don’t test to ensure fuel quality standards are met. Only two Ohio counties ― Cuyahoga and Summit ― test for fuel quality. The bill would allow county auditors to opt-in to testing, which Reynolds said he would do.

In 2019, four motorists pumped water-tainted fuel at a Madison Twp. fuel station, and it’s also happened previously in other parts of the county, including in 2018 in West Chester Twp.

Kelly and Hall offered sponsor testimony of House Bill 144 on Tuesday in a House Transportation and Public Safety committee hearing. The Senate Transportation Committee has yet to hold a hearing on Senate Bill 71.

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