Lifting of emissions rule could lead to local gas pump savings

Local drivers could see cheaper prices this summer as the EPA lifts some emissions regulations on the summer-blend fuel formula. STAFF

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Local drivers could see cheaper prices this summer as the EPA lifts some emissions regulations on the summer-blend fuel formula. STAFF

Local projects to reduce harmful emissions have been so successful the EPA is lifting costly fuel requirements in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.

The move could mean cost savings for drivers when gas stations make the switch to the summer-blend formula in May or June.

Since 2007, nine Ohio counties — Clark, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Butler, Hamilton, Warren, Clermont and Clinton — have been under Low Reid Vapor Pressure fuel requirements.

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It means the summer-blend formula sold at gas stations must meet a certain emissions threshold. The lower the RVP of gas, the less it evaporates, contributing to air pollution.

“The blend of RVP fuel that had been required in southwest Ohio was a specialized blend with an even lower evaporation point than the typical summer blend,” said Dina Pierce, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA Southwest District.

Gas stations will still switch to a summer blend this spring, but it will be similar to the blend sold in other parts of the state.

The previous requirement meant gas prices in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas were higher than other Ohio cities during the summer-blend months.

In 2016, gas in the Cincinnati area was 13.8 cents more per gallon on average than in Columbus, and 15.9 cents more than Cleveland. Dayton’s gas was 12.2 cents higher than in Columbus and 14.3 cents higher than Cleveland, according to the Ohio EPA.

“There will be savings,” Pierce said, but it’s unknown how much prices in Dayton and Cincinnati will come down. “Fuel prices are dictated by the market and can vary season to season and year to year even without the low RVP requirement,” she said.

The extra low RVP requirement was one measure the southwest district put in place to replace the old E-check program a decade ago. But as some manufacturing facilities have closed in the region, and others have switched to cleaner energy sources, it was not longer necessary to keep that restriction to meet clean air standards, Pierce said.

The EPA credited emission reductions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the MillerCoors facility in Trenton.

The base converted its two heating plants from coal to natural gas in 2015 and 2016, reducing harmful emissions to come into compliance with EPA regulations.

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“The base did a study to figure out the most cost-effective means of meeting (new EPA) regulations. As a result of a life-cycle cost analysis, the project to convert to natural gas was started,” said Jesse Poorman, utilities asset manager and mechanical operations engineer at the base in a release about the project last year.

The coal-fired plants that heated the base had been built in 1946 and in the mid-1970s. The base estimated cost savings of $2.3 million a year from no longer maintaining conveyor equipment or bag houses, which collected coal dust.

The MillerCoors plant similarly switched from coal/gas boilers to natural gas boilers in 2016.

The EPA could reimpose low RVP or other emissions requirements if federal ozone standards change, Pierce said.

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