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EPA May Waive Requirement For Gas Pump Fume Protectors

July 14, 2011

U.S. gas stations may soon be able to do away with their gas pumps’ fuel vapor recovery systems — those bulky black rubber covers that keep gas fumes from escaping when motorists fill up their car, under a new proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to USA Today reporter Elizabeth Weise, the EPA’s Clean Air Act proposal would waive the requirement for gas stations to have the vapor recovery systems by 2013, since an estimated 70 percent of all vehicles will be equipped by then with on-board systems that capture the gas vapors.

The agency said that waiving the requirement could save affected gas stations more than $3,000 per year.

The EPA began requiring gas stations in areas with high pollution levels to install the vapor recovery systems in 1994, in attempt to keep gas fumes that can cause ozone and smog from leaking out when drivers fill up.

However, in 1998 automakers began installing their own onboard refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) technologies specifically designed to keep fumes from escaping during refueling.  By 2006, all new automobiles and light trucks came equipped with ORVR.

“It’s good news; we’ve dealt with this, and now we can take these things away,” said Bob Keefe with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., during an interview with USA Today.

However, “it’s still concerning that 30% of the vehicles on the road, 60 million or so, will still fall through the cracks on this,” he said.

An EPA waiver would save money for gas stations in areas that had required the systems, said Rex Brown with the Petroleum Equipment Institute, which represents the energy-handling equipment industry, including makers of gas station pumps.

“It means you can decommission the system, and you don’t have to spend the money to maintain it,” he told USA Today.

The systems are costly, and particularly expensive to repair after “drive-off” accidents in which a motorist forgets to return the hose to the pump after filling up, Brown said.

“So when somebody drives off with the nozzle still in their gas tank, the parts that it rips out of their gas pump are much more expensive than normal gas hoses.”

Twenty-eight states now require fuel vapor recovery systems in areas with heavy pollution, such as areas in which ozone levels exceed federal standards, or in which high amounts of ozone drifts in from neighboring states, or other state requirements.

The states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

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